Why It Is Time to Ask the Tough Questions
Your plate is full already – the last thing you want to think about is who will take care of your parents. But as uncomfortable as this question is, it needs to be answered. As life expectancy increases, more and more of us are providing caregiving for aging parents or family members. 34 million Americans are providing unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older.
Get the Family Together
As we grow older and begin establishing our own lives and families, it’s natural for siblings and cousins to drift apart. Some family members we see all the time if we live in the same town, others only for big holidays or weddings, if then.
As such, designating a weekend to get together with your parents (and siblings, if you have any) to discuss their future care can help in determining next steps and ensuring everyone is on the same page.
Depending on your family’s spiritual beliefs, you may want to have a religious adviser present. If there is any hired help, you should consider including them, as well. They’ll be more privy to some things you and your family may have no idea about.
Make sure to have a set agenda of concerns you want to address. If there are potentially serious plans that must be enacted in the long term, be sure to either record the meeting or take notes.
Outline all the different responsibilities and emergency situations that could arise and decide as a unit who should do what.
You should also be willing to compromise. Have a plan B should someone be unavailable at any given moment.
Figuring Out the “Where”
Where will the care be delivered? If your parents are like most of the people we work with and help, the answer is they want to receive care at home. But is their home suitable for care?
Even a one-story home may need modifications to make it easy for a walker or wheelchair. The bathroom may need modifications, such as a raised toilet or a curbless shower. The kitchen may need some modifications, such as lower counters and easier-to-use fixtures.
There is also the possibility of investing in smart-home technology or medical alert systems to help take care of your parents.
But if the above is not possible or affordable, will your parents have to move in with you or one of your siblings? Will they have to move to a senior housing complex, assisted living center, or a nursing home? Will it be near you or other family members?
Deciding Who Will Take Care of Your Parents
What about who will be the primary coordinator of their care? Who will be their health-care proxy? Who will have a power of attorney over their financial matters? You should seek the assistance of a qualified legal counsel, with expertise in elder care.
Your parents may have a most trusted child, but perhaps that sibling lives halfway across the country or maybe is overseas. The geographically closest child might be the sibling who doesn’t have it all quite “figured out.” These are tough but necessary items to start discussing now.
Crunching the Numbers
How do your parents pay for all of this? Will they use their emergency savings and assets? Their retirement accounts? Do they have long-term care insurance? Will they use home equity? The answers may be one or all the above.
What if they don’t have enough resources? Will you and your family pay for their care? Are you going to help them apply for Medicaid? If this is the direction you’re headed in, make sure you speak with an attorney who is well versed in this.
Final Thoughts on How to Take Care of Your Parents
There are no magic bullets here. Some options may be better than others, and sometimes you’ll need to use more than one option. What is important is having a plan. The plan doesn’t have to be perfect, but you need to have one.
Please let us know if we can be of assistance in helping you to facilitate a family meeting to address these important topics. We know first-hand how important these conversations can be to ensuring the best care for your loved ones.