Boomers visiting aging parents this holiday season may get a wake-up call.
Little things you can’t learn by phone can come to light when you see your parents in person, such as weight loss or the appearance of neglect around their home. You may notice that they are having trouble tracking the conversation, or the memory loss you chalked up to “just getting old” is now a significant problem. Sometimes, they just look frail.
Folks who market for assisted living facilities say inquiries and visits to see their places are way up at this time of year. No wonder. Adult children who live out of their parents’ area want to know what to do if there is a “next step” needed. But, you’ll probably face resistance; many elders don’t like change and especially don’t like the idea of giving up the family home.
Here’s what to do…
Use your visit to your parents during this time of year is an opportunity. If you don’t see them every day, use the visit as a reason to take stock. Take your cues from what you see to take action. Here are six essentials you need to know.
- Approach the subject of their changing needs with finesse and respect. Get professional advice if the though of having these conversations overwhelms you. If you plan what to say and when to say it, you will do better than moving ahead without thinking too much about it.
- Make sure they have legal documents, such as a durable power of attorney for finances, and a health care directive ('living will’). If they don’t, you can help get them going by preparing these items yourself without an attorney if you are comfortable with this (the documents themselves are free). If your parents do have them, learn where they are stored, and get a copy for yourself, especially if you are named as the “agent” on one or both of these documents.
- Make sure there plans for managing at home with help if they need it. If grocery shopping, cooking, or bathing is getting difficult, it’s time to consider who could help and how to arrange for help at home. How to finance the help must be discussed.
- If you are worried about their isolation being at home without help and without social contacts check out suitable alternative living situations. Do your research and visit a few prospects. It may get the conversation going about necessary change.
- If paying bills on time and keeping track of finances is an issue, find out if your parent is willing to accept your help with managing the money. Offer to take over the responsibility. Perhaps you can get your parent’s permission to open an online account and automate the bill paying task with your oversight or help.
- Learn what to do if a health emergency arises. Keep a record of your parents’ doctors, medications, diagnoses, and day to day health management. This can save you from panic when the inevitable time comes with aging parents that some health crisis arises. And this is where the discussion needs to happen about end of life wishes. Prepare yourself by being sure of what your parents want with the legal document (#1, above) you will need.
Holidays can be so busy, it may be easier to just overlook any danger signs you see with aging parents. As your parents continue to age, you will feel much greater confidence when you are prepared. And, the work of being prepared is excellent modeling for our own kids. After all, we want them to have it easy and know just what to do when it’s our turn to be the aging and maybe frail parents.
You have been officially alerted.