Planning With Aging Parents

Younger hand on older person's hands. Are you concerned about your aging parents and uncertain how to help them?
Image by Sabine van Erp from Pixabay

Today I’m thrilled to offer a guest post from Erin Kershaw, a Geriatric Care Manager who specializes in helping families make decisions about elderly life transitions. This is advice we all need to hear.

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Are you concerned about your aging parents and uncertain how to help them? Maybe you are unaware of what resources are available, what legal documents should be in place, or what living options are the best to consider? As a Professional Geriatric Care Manager, I assist families struggling to find answers and plan for the future.

If you would like to help your aging parents, here is a checklist to get you started:

  • Legal – In addition to having an updated will, did you know it’s important your parents have both a Durable Medical and a Financial Power of Attorney (POA)? These documents authorize you or another designated person to make decisions on your parents’ behalf if they become incapable of making sound decisions. Closely related to the POAs is a Living Will. This allows your parents to communicate their wishes regarding which treatments they would or would not want should they become incapacitated.
  • Medical – It’s a good idea for you to have a list of your parents’ current doctors, medical conditions, and a list of all their medications. Be sure vitamins and herbal supplements are included as well, since these can interact with prescription medications. Review with your parents why they are taking each medication, and at what time(s) each day. Be sure your parents share an updated medications list with their doctors at every appointment. It’s even wise for them to bring the actual medicines in the original containers to these appointments. A gallon-sized Ziploc bag works well for this. If your parents use plastic pill boxes, available at drug stores, to sort their medications according to time of day they are to be taken, the original containers should be kept together in the bag anyway.
  • Housing – Ask your parents what their long-term living arrangement plans are. Some are open to moving into a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) or Assisted Living (AL) community. Others are adamant about remaining in their homes. Regardless of the plan, it’s important to recognize some level of assistance will be needed down the road. This conversation will help you if a parent’s ability to safely live independently becomes a concern.
  • Transportation – As we age, our ability to drive is impacted by cataracts, arthritis and other medical conditions. Driving at night may become difficult, but that doesn’t mean your parents need to be home bound. Community-based driving services, private-duty companions, and help from friends, family & religious communities may be good options to support independence while assuring safety.
  • Vital Information – Encourage your parents to keep a list of all investment, banking, and credit card account numbers, as well as details of mortgages/deeds/titles, medical and life insurance policies, birth certificates, marriage licenses and social security numbers. Ask your parents where this information is kept, and keep a copy if they are agreeable.

It’s best to have these conversations before there is a crisis. Your parents will be more willing to share their thoughts when they understand your goal is to understand and respect their wishes.

If you need some professional assistance to help guide you through the maze of elder care, you can visit www.caremanager.org to find a Geriatric Care Manager near you.

Geriatric Care Manager

Erin Kershaw
Geriatric Care Manager,
Brandywine Elder Care Management Services, LLC

20 thoughts on “Planning With Aging Parents”

  1. I know my mom had to deal with this when my grandmother starting getting older, more forgetful and eventually her health began to also fail. So, I think you laid this out quite perfectly and thank you for sharing here for all who may need this help and advice.

    1. Yes, my Mom went through this with her mother as well. And as I get older, more of my friends are dealing with these issues. Tensions can really be lessened if you have these discussions early, when there is no pressing need!

  2. My mother had this with her mother very recently. My grandfather passed away two years ago, and my 98-year-old grandmother had to move up to NJ after living in Florida for.. ever. And my mom learned so much of what you wrote here, but she learned it the hard way.
    This piece is important.
    My grandmother passed away two years later, at age 100. I miss her.

    1. Thanks for this comment, Tamara. “Important” is such a good word, and my hope is to get people talking with their parents now, before the emergency hits. What a long and wonderful life your grandmother had. I miss mine too!

  3. This is a crucial part of everyone’s lives. And as much as we would like to think everything’s gonna be fine (most of the time that’s what I think), it’s important to be always prepared instead of panicking when something happens. I agree that everyone needs to know this.

    1. You make such a good point, Rea. This just isn’t a topic we like to discuss… we like to just ignore it, thinking that everything will always be fine. But I’ve seen enough people struggling to know that discussing this stuff while everyone is still healthy and happy makes it MUCH easier than dealing with important decisions in a crisis. Thanks for reading:)

  4. This is great info, Seana. My father in law as you know recently passed away and he was very prepared with everything, but I have no idea what my parents have set up because they haven’t shared any of it with me. I probably need to sit down and talk to them.

    1. So glad that your father-in-law had everything worked out. I’m sure that alleviated a lot of stress and pressure on your husband and the family. It’s funny how we often don’t think about these things until we are in the crisis. If there is a long developing illness, we tend to be more prepared. But unfortunately, life can change in an instant, so it’s worth having the conversation even if everything seems fine.

  5. Wow this is serious. It’s typically one of the toughest conversations to have with your parents. I know this will help someone out there sort through all the necessary, pertinent information that must be discussed!

    1. Yes, it can be a difficult conversation. But if you can have the conversation when everyone is healthy, with the clear stated intent of wanting to honor your parents’ wishes, you can make it a bit easier. And your comment is my my exact hope, Brittnei…. that someone will be helped!

  6. Making decisions with your aging parents can be stressful and hard to come to terms with, but this article had some suggestions to help make those conversations and plans a little easier. I thought it was useful how the article pointed out that some level of assistance will be needed whether that is assisted living or some other option. It was also a great tip to have your parents write down vital information and tell you where that is kept.

    1. I think that is the most important thing… to gather this information now so that everyone is prepared if something happens. It can feel awkward to start these conversations, but so much better to talk when everything is good, rather than when things are falling apart!

  7. Very practical and correct piece of advice. Instead of feeling hampered when the crisis strikes, it is always better to stay prepared and organized by having a candid conversation with the old parents and being proactive about getting all the paperwork and documents organized.

    1. Preparation, and knowing what might be coming, help us manage all crises better. That is why professionals, who are familiar with what to expect, can be so helpful at these stressful times.

  8. It really helped when you mentioned that I should discuss my parents’ long-term plans when it comes to living arrangements. They’re nearing the retirement age and although they are still physically fit, I’m clueless about their plans. It might be a good idea to visit them this weekend and bring the subject of senior care at dinner.

    1. These are important conversations. I can see from your website that you are a part of services that help people stay in their homes, if that is what is they want and need. So critical to know everyone’s wishes!

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