There comes a time as adult children when we need to step into a caregiver role for our aging parents. As they get older, you could face a change in traditional roles where you are taking on more tasks for your parent. Finding time to discuss their wishes while they can still make difficult decisions for themselves can alleviate many frustrations for both of you. Are you prepared for your aging parents’ future?
Talk Early and Often
No one wants to talk to their parents about end-of-life planning but having a conversation with them about their wishes for their later years while they’re still relatively young will set an important precedent. Do you know what your parents want if they fall ill or find the family home too overwhelming to take care of anymore?
Invite your parents and other involved parties (siblings, spouses, etc.) for a sit-down discussion. Reassure them that you respect what they want as they’re getting older and begin to need more help. Prepare to listen and take notes if necessary. If your parents are on the younger side, ask them about the decisions they made for their parents. They may not be ready for assisted living themselves, but it will open the conversation and give you an idea of what they want as they age. When it’s time for “the talk,” arm yourself with questions:
- Do you feel safe living alone?
- How are you feeling about driving?
- Are you having a hard time managing bills?
- Would you ever consider getting help with housekeeping and laundry?
- Would it be less stressful if you didn’t have to worry about taking care of a large house?
Continue to check in when they hit milestones or new health concerns. The subject may be overwhelming, allowing them time to think things over will be helpful. The more informed you are about what they want, the easier the decisions will be when it’s time to make them.
When the time comes for your parent to require assistance, where do they want to go? Do they want to stay in their house with an in-home caregiver, or move in with you? Are they open to an assisted living or memory care community if they need it? Discuss the scenarios with them so that when the time comes, you’ll be able to navigate your parent to the living situation they desire.
Before you can make any decisions on your parent’s living or care arrangements, you should review their net worth to get an idea of what they can afford. Calculate retirement savings, debt, Social Security, pensions, assets and any other income. Do they have long-term care insurance? What debt do they need to pay off? Has your parent assigned a power of attorney? This information will be imperative to making sure your parents are well cared for as they require more assistance.
The most uncomfortable subject to discuss is what your parents want when they pass away. And while no one wants to discuss it, you should be aware of your parents’ wishes in a medical situation. If they have not already, suggest your parents set up a living will. A living will is a written statement detailing a person’s desires regarding their medical treatment in circumstances where they are no longer able to express informed consent. This will help you understand exactly what your parents’ wishes are in a medical emergency.
Becoming a Caregiver
As your parents age, you will likely step into more of a caregiver role. If you have siblings, define expectations around what caring for your parents means. If you all live in the same area, make sure you are splitting the functions of a caregiver, so no one experiences burn out. If your family is spread nationally/globally, make sure you are asking for the help you need. Setting clear boundaries up front can help eliminate some of the frustrations that come with caregiving.
If the caregiver responsibilities fall on a sibling, how can you help? Step in where you can. Offer to transport your parent to and from appointments from time-to-time; pick up mom or dad for dinner so your sibling can have a break; offer to take over for a weekend so they can get some time away. Caregivers often forget to take care of themselves while taking care of loved ones, so be the person to care for the caregiver.
We understand the conversations around end-of-life wishes and expectations of where to live if they can no longer care for themselves are uncomfortable. However, delaying it until it’s an emergency adds more stress to an already stressful situation. If you’d like more information about preparing for your aging parent, visit our directory of educational resources or stop by your nearest Aegis Living community to speak with one of our directors.