How to Care for Your Aging Parents Without Losing Your Sanity part 1

By , Posted on May 20, 2013
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…a multi-part series
Part 1: Planning for the Inevitable

Few people look forward to taking care of their aging parents but there are many more of us that seem to deny that’s is coming.  Sooner or later we are going to be shoved into the role of caregiver.

When you, as the adult child, are thrust into the immediate need to take care of your elderly parents, you will be faced with a deluge of decisions and life changing events and will be expected by everyone to handle everything without missing a beat.

All of a sudden you could be feverishly searching for account numbers to pay bills while Dad is in the hospital, fighting with the insurance company to find out why coverage for the CT scan was denied, and trying to get your siblings and other family members, thousands of miles away, to decide if Dad should go to a rehab center, stay at home or move into an assisted living facility.

“…you feel guilty because you know Dad wants to stay in his own home,”

You are the one “stuck” with dealing with it all, and you feel guilty because you know Dad wants to stay in his own home but you are unsure if you can handle taking care of him.  …Not to mention you are going crazy juggling your own home, work and kids.  You likely have feelings of being alone. What are you supposed to do?

Keep in mind, you’re not alone. According to a 2009 AARP survey, more than 42 million Americans provide family care-giving for an adult who needs help with daily activities, and an additional 61.6 million provided at least some care during the year.

Well, if you are already in the middle of it, you can hardly plan out everything as you are already being forced to handle situations as they appear.  If however your elderly parents are still healthy and living on their own, do not let any more time pass, acknowledge that the day will come that you will be required to take on care-giving responsibilities and start planning now!

Many children of elderly parents that are thrust into the caregiver role, lack an advanced care directive.  There are no predetermined instructions for their care.  That is why we are preparing now.

First things first — When it comes to caring for your elderly parents, you have a few options. The first decision you should make is where your parent(s) will live – in their own home, your home with you, or in an elderly care center. If you decide on an elderly care center, you have choices…will it be an adult day care, home care, independent living, assisted living, or skilled nursing care?  If at all possible, involve your parent in this discussion.

After making this very important, life changing decision, don’t think you can relax, there are many more decisions and preparations that you and your parents must make.

Now it’s time for the finances, healthcare, day-to-day living and legal discussions to start.  Keep in mind that this time of life will not only be difficult for you but also for your parent. Even if your parents are healthy, planning for the inevitable can take its toll emotionally on them and you. Make sure there is some give-and-take when it comes to what makes things easy for you and your aging parent.

The cost of caring for your elderly parents can be considered no less than daunting, and for some families, care for our parents, outside of the home, is just not financially possible.  When talking about where your parents will live, unfortunately the cost will likely be the deciding factor.  The first questions to ask when approaching the financial aspect of planning for your parents care is:

How much can the family afford and what can we tolerate? — Start assessing the financial situation of your parents.  Many seniors receive retirement, disability or social security benefits.  Some parents, like my own mother, has made some arrangements for the inevitable future and has purchased continuing care insurance.  In accessing your parent’s finances be sure to include any other assets that if necessary could be liquidated in order to free up capital for their care.

Once you have a clear picture of your parent’s finances, begin to compare the living situations that you have agreed on.

— What will it cost to live at an assisted living facility?  Would it be less expensive for your parents to continue to live in their home with perhaps a visiting nurse?  What about if they will have to live with you?  Will you have to add-on to make room?  Are there expenses that your parents now have that can be eliminated if and when they have to move?

Talking about our parent’s finances is for many of us an uncomfortable situation and elderly parents are sometimes suspicious of their children’s financial motives, but having this discussion must be done.

In the next installment of “How to Care for Your Aging Parents Without Losing Your Sanity” we will look at Specific financial information you need to gather such as –  Power of Attorneys, Living Wills, Estate Planning and Legal Issues.

read part 2

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