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Aging

5 Steps to Prepare Aging Parents for a Bright Future

How to help your parents prepare today.

Source: Matthew Bennett/Unsplash
Source: Matthew Bennett/Unsplash

Even if your relationship with your mom and dad is less than perfect, you won’t want to see them struggle, especially as they get older.

Thankfully, there are ways you can prepare your aging parents for a comfortable future, and as far as possible, stress-free.

I sat down with Ellen Klein, an editor at Choice Mutual, where she covers topics such as financial management and risk management. She identified the five essential steps for preparing your parents. By following these guidelines, you can help your mom and dad face their golden years with greater confidence.

1. Have the Talk About Aging Concerns With Your Parents

The starting point is to call that family meeting. If you have siblings, ask them to come along if possible. If they’re too far away to participate in person, consider asking them to join in via Skype, Zoom, or another video call service.

All participants must know what the meeting will be about beforehand so that no one is caught off guard. Because it’s an important and potentially sensitive topic, approach it in a gentle, considerate way.

The point of the meeting is to make sure that your parents and siblings all know the way forward. During the meeting, ask your parents:

  • How they feel about their current situation and living conditions.
  • If the family can help them in any way now.
  • How they plan to pay for assisted living or medical care.
  • Where they would prefer to live if they are no longer able to live on their own.

The answers they provide will guide you towards making the best possible decisions for all involved. However, there may be some anger, resentment, or tension that arises. It’s only natural. Few people are entirely comfortable acknowledging their potential frailty and possible lack of independence, or that of people they love—especially their parents. Do your best to keep the conversations loving, honest, and respectful.

2. Assess Your Aging Parents’ Current Situation

The meeting with your parents should provide you with enough information to assess their current situation. You can supplement that with what you know about them already.

Ask yourself the following or similar questions as part of your assessment:

  • Are your parents still able to drive competently?
  • Are they able to pay all their bills?
  • Do they have any large debts?
  • Do they have problems with their physical mobility?
  • Do they have issues with their sight?
  • Are they maintaining or losing their weight?
  • Can they cook, clean, and care for themselves?

Educating yourself about their current circumstances will not only help you to plan for their future. It also enables you to determine whether they need assistance now and what form it would be.

3. Make Medical and Legal Plans With Your Aging Parents

Ensuring your aging parents have adequate medical and legal planning is an essential part of preparing for their future. In addition to reliable health insurance, they should also have an Advanced Health Care Directive or Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST). These documents contain their wishes regarding medical care, should they ever become incapable of expressing their desires. Their medical plans should give a responsible person medical power of attorney too. As far as legal planning goes, talk with your mom and dad about life insurance for elderly parents, funeral plans, and any other medical insurance policies they may need. They should also draw up a will if they don’t already have one.

If they haven’t indicated how they wish to be memorialized after their eventual passing, consider asking them about their final wishes. All their essential documents, such as their insurance policies, portfolios, baptism and wedding certificates, military records, POLST, make copies and keep them in a safe place.

4. Review Your Aging Parents’ Financial Resources

Reviewing your parent’s financial resources is a big part of securing a stress-free future. Make a list that includes:

  • Their monthly income
  • Retirement savings
  • Pensions
  • Assets
  • Savings accounts
  • Social security

Then, list their monthly expenses and debts. Calculate how long their finances will last, based on their current costs.

The main points you will and to consider are:

  • Do your parents still have large debts such as credit cards, car, or house?
  • Have they decided who will receive power of attorney?
  • Should you be monitoring their spending?
  • Do you need to check that your parents are paying all their bills?

5. Consider Potential Housing Options for Your Aging Parents

There may come a time when your parents are no longer able to live independently. In light of this, you must explore potential housing options with them. Some you may consider:

  • Assisted living: Assisted living is an option that offers private accommodation but with services such as housekeeping, laundry, transport, and assistance with medication.
  • In-home care: The option allows your parents to continue living in their home, but with a caregiver’s services for 12 or 24 hours a day.
  • Nursing home: If complex or intense medical care is needed, a nursing home is an option to consider.
  • Your home: If you have the space, time, and the means, you might consider asking your parents to move in with you, which could mean that you become the primary caregiver.

Working out potential housing options early on is always best as situations can change in a heartbeat. After a fall, illness, or medical issue, your parents may suddenly need additional care. Knowing what they would prefer and the accommodation options they would be comfortable in can offer everyone peace of mind.

Preparing aging parents for a bright future is not always an easy or comfortable task. However, it’s one of the best things you can do for your mom and dad. By following these five steps, you can conquer difficult conversations and set plans in motion when required.

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