Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Preparing to Care for Aging Parents

As parents age, the feeling of invincibility that followed them wherever they went when you were a child, begins to fade. You suddenly start to realize that it’s time to reciprocate some of that time and effort they spent on you. Well, at least that’s the way I feel.

Personally, I think that it’s important to start preparing for aging parents early on and stay on top of those preparations as situations change. That’s the plan I’m trying to stick to at least as my mother and in-laws start to enter their golden years.

Financial Organization
While at first thought, it might not seem any of an adult child’s business what their parents’ financial situations are, as those parents begin to move into their golden years, it can become more of our business. I’ve tried to open a dialogue with our parents early on in the process, choosing to ease into subject matter that will likely become more and more a part of our shared lives as parents age and the responsibility of their care starts to become an increasing part of our lives.

Knowing where parents stand financially, how their money is invested and where, and the possible expenses they will begin to encounter as they age can play a crucial part in helping to care for them. Starting this process early on can help us leave less to chance and not only help them make this transition into old age, but help me and my wife better prepare as well.

Even with our parents only in their early-60s, the sooner we can grasp their financial situations, the better I can plan and help them plan for the future since I can’t be sure when a stroke, heart attack or similar unforeseen incident or accident could suddenly leave us in charge of caring for them.

Legal Questions
We’ve done our best to ask parents questions and find out about certain legal questions we’ve had. Suddenly finding a parent incapacitated and not knowing the answers to questions relating to a will, a living will, power of attorney, and similar items can leave you and your family in a bind.

While I don’t want to seem greedy or intrusive, parents have such legal preparations in place for a reason, and that reason is typically to have their affairs in order to make their passing or incapacitation easier for their friends and family. Therefore, to me, logic would dictate that if they have such legal issues answered, they shouldn’t mind sharing them, and if they don’t have them answered, they should begin preparing to answer them sooner than later.

Part of my preparation for caring for aging parents includes knowing where things are. I’m not knocking elderly people here, but it’s a fact of life, people forget things. Having a son, daughter or other trustworthy sources who know where safe deposit keys are located, where important paperwork is kept, and similar information can help keep things in order and avoid the time consuming and possibly costly misplacing of items and documents as parents age.

Family History
I’ve been sure to try to collect as much information as possible regarding our family health history while the parents are coherent enough to discuss such matters and it is still readily available. It might seem somewhat flippant to say such a thing, but in my opinion it’s best to start forming an idea of conditions and diseases that seem to be more prevalent in a family before that information becomes hard to come by as family members age and such information starts to become lost in the memories of years gone by.

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