Caring for Elderly Parents
The statistics in the United States regarding adult children taking care of a parent are startling. A recent MetLife study found that “the number of people taking care of an aging parent has soared in the past 15 years.” Their estimate is that nearly 10 million adult children aged 50 and over care for an elderly parent. We have a list of tips for those caring for elderly parents.
This is a tough topic for all concerned, but for all concerned, there needs to be frank, open and honest discussions about legal, financial and long-term care issues.
Caring for Elderly Parents Means Talking About it Early
Sit down with your parents while they are still healthy in mind and body for a frank discussion about finances, legal and long-term care issues. Find out what they want and what they can afford.
That did not happen with my daughter in-law. Her husband and his brothers had not talked to his parents about what would happen if they needed assistance and could no longer care for their ranch and that is exactly what did happen.
His mother suffered a stroke and his father fell, all within two weeks. They had not made any provisions for their long-term care. Since none of the boys lived near them and could not take over their care, the State came in and moved them to a nursing home. The sad part is that under the law, Medicaid does not start paying expenses until a person’s assets have been completely used and, as I am sure everyone is aware, nursing homes are not inexpensive.
So, his parents were moved to a nursing home and their property was put up for sale, and the boys will end up not being able to inherit anything from their parents.
Find Out About Their Medications
Caring for elderly parents means finding out what medications your parents are taking and the dosages. Get their primary care doctor’s information. Type the list, hang it inside a cabinet in their kitchen and carry a copy with you at all times.
Know Their Final Wishes
Do you know what your parents' wishes are regarding resuscitation and burial? Who is going to make decisions for them if they are not able to themselves? While caring for your elderly parents, find out if your parents have a living will, a last will, a power of attorney and a healthcare proxy. If they do, find out where they keep their papers. Do they have a safe deposit box? If so, where? If they do not have the above documents, it is essential that they get them. It is the only way their wishes can be followed.
Get Permission to Speak to Their Doctor
In a very respectful way, ask your parents to allow you to discuss their medical information with their physician. Then, have that discussion. Find out if there have been any diagnoses you are not aware of. My parents were very secretive about their physical conditions. I had no idea my Dad had heart failure and had had a defibrillator inserted into his chest until 10 years after it was done.
I vowed at that time that I would not leave my children in the dark about any condition I might have and I have stood by that. They are adults, I do not believe in keeping secrets.
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Think Before Quitting Your Job
It is very tempting, as an adult child, to quit work to help an elderly parent after all they have done for you over the years. However, it may not be the best option for anyone. You need to sit down and figure out what would happen not only to the income you currently make, but also to your retirement account.
Depending upon your age and how long your parent needs care, you need to weigh how hard it will be to find work in the future. Will your skill set still be applicable in the workplace? What employer provided benefits will you lose. You need to consider benefits such as healthcare, short and long-term disability, long-term care, life insurance, etc. Before making any decision of this magnitude, check to see if your employer offers some type of leave plan.
Evaluate Benefits vs Cost of Them Staying in Their Home
Weigh the benefits against the costs of keeping your parents in their home. When my parents reached their late 80s, they decided to sell their home and move to a condominium where there were services such as valet parking and having help with groceries. They were able to take all their furniture and art, so they were surrounded by their belongings, which made them feel very comfortable.
As time wore on, we were able to hire 24-hour caregivers to come in and help them. We were fortunate that my dad had made financial arrangements so that they were able to stay in their condo and have the help they needed until they each had passed away. The cost was prohibitive, upwards of $100,000.00 annually, and had my dad not made those provisions, I am not sure what we would have done.
Take Advantage of Helpful Resources
There are options available that you can check into that will give you information on locating caregiver help in your parents’ community. Eldercare Locator, a public service of the Administration on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is a nationwide service that connects older Americans and their caregivers with information on senior services.
Another website, Benefits Checkup, is a free service of the National Council on Aging (NCOA), a nonprofit service and advocacy organization in Washington, DC. Their website states that there are over 2000 federal, state and private benefit programs to help adults over 55 to pay for health care, prescription drugs, utilities and other needs, but many people do not know about them or how to apply.
Their website has a checklist that asks a series of questions to help identify benefits that could save your parents money and cover the costs of everyday expenses, then gives you a list of organizations to contact based on the criteria you entered.
Look After Yourself
If you have started acting as caregiver and you are feeling overwhelmed, do not be proud. Find help. In order to care for someone else, you first need to care for yourself. Look into getting some professional help to help you create a care giving plan, particularly if your parents’ needs are considerable.
The Aging Life Care Association website has many sections, one of which is, “Working with an Aging Life Care Professional,” that will guide you in asking the right questions to find the right professional for your situation.
Protect Your Parents From Scammers
When my mom was alive, she received a call from someone selling “money-making crossword puzzles.” All he needed was her checking account number and routing number so he could send her "puzzles guaranteed to make you $50,000.00.” He even helped her by telling her where on her checks she could get the information he needed. She gave it to him without a question.
Fortunately, she also called me to tell me about it and I called the bank before any real damage was done to her bank account. He had already helped himself to several hundred dollars that the bank, at that time, replaced. The pain was in having to change her account number, make sure the companies that took automatic debits were notified, and so on.
The National Council on Aging has a list of the top 10 Scams targeting seniors. It would be a good idea for you to become familiar with the list and talk to your parents about the types of scams criminals will try to pull on them.
Get Them an Alert System
If your parent or parents live alone, consider getting them some type of alert system. Medical Alert Comparisons has reviews of the various systems available. If they have neighbors who are able, ask them to check on your parents every couple of days.
Above all, treat your parents with the respect and love they deserve. They will not be here forever, so cherish every moment you have with them, through the good and the bad.