A Simple Guide to Caring for Aging Parents
Many of us will face a time in our lives when we will need to provide some form of care for our aging parents as their health deteriorates. Being a caregiver can be a rewarding experience, but it can also be a stressful and confusing journey. You may need to help with a variety of aspects of care, such as finding an assisted living or nursing home facility and assisting with various medical, health, legal, and financial issues. You may also need to work with various legal and financial professionals to help you navigate the process’s complexities. We created this simple guide to caring for aging parents to help you navigate this journey. It covers all of the important aspects you may need to address as well as which professionals to bring in and when.
Step 1 – Make a Plan
When caring for aging parents, one of the most important aspects, outside of maintaining dignity, respect, and compassion for the parent requiring care, is having a plan for any potential caregiving situation that could arise.
Every caregiving situation is unique and can range from being very simple to highly complex, so a good care plan for your aging parents will address the following:
- Create a safe and accessible environment to live in. If they can’t walk, for example, their home may need to be modified to accommodate wheelchairs and promote independent living.
- Assess their current financial situation. You’ll need to understand what resources aging parents have available to cover the costs of care. You may also need to help them plan for any potential financial obstacles that could limit their level of care, independence, or quality of life.
- Ensure a documented estate plan is in place. This includes legal documents like wills, trusts, powers of attorney, advanced healthcare directives, etc. These documents will ensure your aging parents’ end-of-life wishes are followed.
- Effectively utilize all available health insurance coverage. Is there long-term insurance or any other type of coverage available that can be utilized to cover long-term care costs? Medicare only covers home health care.
- Name backup caregivers. If you need a break or are unable to fulfill your caregiving duties for aging parents, it’s a good idea to have backup caregivers in place. Backup caregivers can be licensed professionals or designated family members and loved ones.
Step 2 – Know When to Act
Knowing when to intervene and assist an aging parent can be a difficult task. On the surface, there may be no obvious signs that your aging parent is deteriorating. For example, a parent may have lost some weight, which may not seem like a big deal at first but could mean that they need help getting to the store or making food at home.
Pay attention to the signs that something is off, and voice your concerns with aging parents and trusted advisors when appropriate. Here are some other signs to look out for:
- Their hygiene habits have worsened
- Their medications aren’t being taken as prescribed
- The bills aren’t being paid
- Their house is unkempt
- They keep getting lost along familiar routes
- They keep getting in fender benders driving
- They seem very tired all the time
- They’ve had a number of recent falls
You likely know your aging parents better than anyone else, so pay attention to any changes in their behavior, health, and well-being, and always trust your gut. If something feels off, make sure to voice your concerns, whether it’s with a doctor, a loved one, or your parents themselves. No matter who it is, always look to lead with love, empathy, and respect. Make sure your parents feel heard and that they understand that the goal is always to maintain their independence and quality of life for as long as possible.
Step 3 – Take Action
There are many opportunities to help care for aging parents, both now and in the future. Certain steps you can take now to help them plan ahead include:
- Consult a financial planner with experience in elder care planning to help assess your parents’ financial situation, identify any potential funding gaps, and create a financial plan for them.
- Consult a licensed life insurance professional if any life insurance policies need to be purchased. Many financial advisors are also licensed to sell life insurance and can help facilitate purchasing any specific life insurance policies they recommend.
- Consult an estate planning attorney to ensure their estate plan is structured the way they want and to draft the needed legal documents, such as wills, trusts, health care directives, and powers of attorney.
- Encourage your aging parents to get regular exercise and eat a healthy diet to maintain their strength and health into old age.
And, once you become a caregiver, specific steps you can take to help your aging parents include:
- Ensure their nutritional needs are being met. This could mean providing meals, helping with feeding, or grocery shopping.
- Provide transportation to and from social gatherings, activities, and doctor’s appointments.
- Provide access to their favorite activities and social gatherings. Maintaining a social life and staying involved in hobbies can stave off feelings of loneliness and depression and keep their minds engaged.
- Monitor medications and make sure all prescriptions are only being taken as prescribed.
- Help coordinate assisted living or in-home healthcare. There are lots of different companies, facilities, and organizations that can provide or help locate these services, so make sure to shop around to find the solutions that fit best.
Obviously, there’s only so much you can control on your own when helping aging parents, so lead with an open mind and a heart full of love, empathy, and respect when discussing these topics with your parents. In truth, facing declining health and our own mortality is not easy for anyone, but as Stephen Covey states in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, “When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That’s when you can get more creative in solving problems.” Keep this in mind as you spur these types of conversations with your parents.
Step 4 – Take Care of Yourself Too
You can’t pour into others if you don’t pour into yourself first. Caregiving can be mentally, physically, and emotionally draining, so it’s important you prioritize your own well-being and establish and communicate boundaries for your own well-being as well.
Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising regularly to stay healthy and keep your mental and emotional health in check as well. Licensed therapists, support groups, and close friends and family can all help you stay grounded through this journey.
In conclusion, caring for aging parents is a challenging but deeply meaningful journey that requires careful planning, timely action, and self-care. It’s a path that many of us will traverse, and while it may be demanding, it offers an opportunity to repay the love and support our parents have provided us over the years.
Additionally, by following these steps and balancing your commitment with self-care, you can provide the best possible care for your parents. The journey may not always be easy, but it is a profound expression of love and respect for the ones who raised and cared for you.
Advisory services are offered through Forefront, a DBA of Forefront Wealth Partners, LLC.
This material is general in nature, was developed for educational use only, and is not intended to provide financial, legal, fiduciary, accounting, or tax advice, nor is it intended to make any recommendations.