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Caring for your parent as they age can be a stressful and confusing process to navigate. On one hand, you want to make sure that your parents have everything they need to stay healthy and happy as they grow older and on the other hand you know that you need to start thinking about things like their will and what happens if they fall and if they can cook dinner for themselves anymore.
U.S. Bureau of Census data says that the number of Americans age 65 and over will increase from 34 million to over 70 million in the next 30 years and many children in the Baby Boomer Generation and in Generation X are unprepared when it comes to having to navigate caring for their aging parents.
To help you out, we have created a list of 5 things you need to start planning so you have a jumping off point to start planning your parents care now and well into the future.
Living wills are becoming more and more important. From dictating what kind of end of life medical care they want to what happens to the house and who is in charge of executing their wishes, make sure that your parents have a living will and make sure you know where to find it.
A living will can save you and your parents a lot of confusion and potential pain when it comes to trying to figure out “well...would they want to be resuscitated?” or “do they want a big funeral?” The more questions that are outlined in the living will, the better. If your parents already have a living will make sure you go over it with them to ensure that it is the most up to date version. Living wills should be updated at least every 5 years.
While it is really hard to talk about money, you have to make sure that you talk to your parents about money. Figure out where they bank, have them write down online passwords, bank account codes, credit card information, and any other financial data and either include it in the will, entrust it to your lawyer, or have your parents give you a copy.
Even if your parents don’t want to give you all of their financial information, encourage them to work with an accountant to make sure that any loose ends can be tied up and managed if one of them were to die or become otherwise unable to manage their financials. The last thing you want to worry about after losing a parent is what to do with the money and debts.
If your parents are in a house, talk to them about if they see themselves in the house in the long term. Is the house accessible for wheelchairs and canes? Are there stairs? Could a medical bed fit in one of the rooms if it's needed? What is the house maintenance like? These are all things that you need to talk about to start the conversation about if your parents may want to downsize or move to a retirement community.
Keep in mind that this can be a particularly emotionally charged conversation. Oftentimes, the house where your parents live is your childhood home. It is important to try and remove the memories and feelings from the conversation. You want to make sure that the home fits your parents changing needs as they age or at the very least, that the home is being adapted as their age to be more accommodating to those needs.
Figuring out who is going to be your parent's caretakers as they age is important. If you have decided that you are going to do it, make sure that you have weighed the financial burden and emotional burden of taking on the task. While they are your parents, a lot of children who try to take on their parents’ care single-handedly burn out quickly and end up emotionally fragile and frustrated.
Lean on services that can help with areas you can’t. Consider a nurse if your parents need special medical care. See if there is an in-home food service or food delivery service that your parents can use. Look into the possibility of a cleaning service. There are a ton of resources to make caring for your aging parents easier, use them to your full advantage.
Caring for your parent as they age is an incredibly difficult task. Be gentle on yourself, your parents, your siblings, and anyone else involved during the process. There will be challenges you don’t expect and struggles that are hard to anticipate along the road. Take time to breathe and don’t try to do it all yourself. You are only one person. Having all the facts and starting the process as soon as you can is the best way to go. Value conversation and talk things out. Some conversations are going to be hard, but with the right approach, you can do it.