Steps to Helping an Aging Parent
1. Find out your parent’s wishes. How great is your parent’s need for independence? What goals or dreams remain to be accomplished? What are your parent’s needs and concerns about the future? What aspects of your parent’s life are most important to him/her at this stage of life? Being near family? Seeing certain friends? Practicing his/her religion?
2. Be sure your parent’s legal documents are in order. Has your parent executed all of the important legal documents and are they up to date? These would include an up-to-date Will, Living Will, Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, and Durable Power of Attorney.
3. Learn your parent’s desires regarding healthcare. Does your parent have a doctor who he/she trusts? If your parent is sick presently, what is his/her prognosis and how will it affect his/her personal care, housing, medical needs or finances? If you had to make medical decisions for your parent, what would he/she want you to know? How would your parent weigh the benefits or burdens of various medical treatments? Is there a certain point after which your parent would no longer want aggressive medical care?
4. Find out your parent’s wishes regarding housing. How important is it to your parent to remain in his or her own home? Where would your parent want to live if he/she could no longer manage at home? Is your parent familiar with other housing options available? What if it isn’t possible for your parent to live with another family member?
5. Learn about your parent’s financial resources. What are your parent’s present financial needs and potential future needs? Is he/she in a financial position to meet these needs? Is your parent’s insurance - including life, health, home and auto - adequate and current?
6. Be sure that your parent has all relevant documents, records and information in order and be sure that you or another family member knows where they are. As your parent becomes increasingly frail, your family will need certain financial records, insurance information, advance healthcare directives, names of doctors, etc. Talk and plan together now about how your parent’s affairs should be handled in the event he/she becomes incapacitated.
7. Learn about sources of help for seniors and housing options available. Chore services, housekeeping, home-delivered meals, senior recreation, day care, respite care and transportation assistance are some of the services available in many communities. Housing options include living with family, foster care, home sharing, board and care homes, senior apartments, continuing care communities or nursing homes.
8. Meet with family members to discuss various responsibilities should your parent become incapacitated. Who will be the designated agent on the Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare or Durable Power of Attorney? Is in-home care a possibility? Under what circumstances?
9. Don’t offer personal home care unless you thoroughly understand and can meet the responsibilities and costs involved. Closely examine your family’s ability to provide long-term in-home care for a frail and increasingly dependent parent. Consider the family’s physical limits. Plan how your own needs will be met when your responsibility for the dependent parent increases.
10. Gather information now on how to care for an aging parent. There are numerous resources available which discuss: housing options, preparing wills and advance healthcare directives, long-distance care giving, protecting and maximizing financial resources, healthcare, community and home-care services, dealing with Alzheimer’s disease or other disorders, etc.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for individualized legal advice. Please consult your legal advisor regarding your specific situation.
Source: U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Employee Assistance Program