Chances are, you are either caring for your aging parents, or you know someone who is in the role of caregiver. There are many individuals in the 50-something age range and in the so-called Sandwich Generation (caring for aging parents while still raising children of their own) who are being tasked with the care of aging parents.
What can you do if you are facing the thought of becoming a caregiver? The best way to deal with it is to face it head on and have a conversation with your parents about their thoughts on aging. Do they want to remain independent? Do they want to age in place? Are they healthy enough to continue living alone? Gather the answers to these questions then call a family meeting to make plans for the inevitable, the time when they may no longer be able to live alone and decisions will need to be made on their care.
Here are some items to consider:
- Begin researching services in your community that provide assistance for seniors who want to age in place. Research the local assisted living facilities to see what the choices may be. Look for programs that provide in-home services to seniors or may even offer devices to make the home safer for them. Check into such programs as Meals on Wheels and look into transportation options for seniors.
- Talk with your parents’ physician. The family needs to understand what medications their loved ones are taking, for what reasons, and on what schedules.
- Prepare the legal documentation necessary for you to be able to step into the role of legal guardian in case your parents cannot speak for themselves. You will want to prepare powers of attorney and healthcare proxy forms. You will also want to ask your parents what kind of heroic lifesaving measures – if any they’d like performed in the event of a health emergency. Make sure you are aware of where your parents financial documents are, where they do their banking, where their life and health insurance information is and whether they have a will.
- Give the house a critical once over to make sure it is senior friendly. Equip the bathroom with safety bars, make sure there are no dark hallways, clear any debris out of the walkways and move items in cabinets and cupboards to lower levels to alleviate any need for climbing to reach items.
- Ask questions of your parents so you fully understand their wants and desires and attempt to make them a reality. Ask questions of their physician so that you understand the extent of any medical issues they may be dealing with. Ask questions of the family attorney so you’re not trying to make decisions in a state of panic.
Knowledge is power and involving your parents in the decision-making is the best course of action. You need to know what they “would have wanted” rather than making choices and hoping you’re doing the correct thing.
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