Planning the Care of Your Aging Parents
If your parents are in their golden years, keep in mind that even gold can lose some
of its glow with the expected effects of old age. Sooner or later, older loved ones
will need assistance.
Make sure legal documents have been drawn up. This includes an up-to-date will,
a durable power of attorney, a living will, and a health-care proxy.
Research the housing options and services available in your parents' community.
Discuss with your loved ones how you can help with their future housing,
financial, and medical-care needs.
Ask them about growing old.
When it's time to act
One day, all the signs may point to the need for you to actively step in to assist
your parents. These are some of the telltale signs:
Your loved ones start losing weight.
They stop washing their hair or clothing, or otherwise ignore personal hygiene.
They show a change in behavior.
They no longer do things that they used to find pleasurable, or they leave the
house less often.
They drink more alcohol.
They leave piles of unpaid bills on their desk, or they otherwise mishandle
They let food grow moldy in the refrigerator, or they leave their home untidy
in other ways.
They start walking unsteadily.
Important first steps
Immediately open a line of communication with your parents' health care providers
so you can discuss your concerns. Even if you live far away, you can get contact information
for your parents' health care providers and other local resources. Identify local
resources that can help your parents, like area agencies on aging, aging and disability
resource centers, or aging information and referral services.
Defining your limits
Many adult children find their first steps into caregiving responsibilities are like
walking into quicksand. If you don't manage your time well or haven't planned in advance,
you can become stuck in never-ending obligations, like daily chores and care, handling
legal or financial issues, or lining up health care providers.
Decide what you can reasonably do to help. Stick with that plan. If you decide you'll visit your mother twice per week, help her manage her
finances, and look into local resources, then that's what you should do. Get
help for other needs as they arise.
Accept help early on — from relatives, friends, neighbors, churches and synagogues, senior centers,
or home-care agencies.
Take care of yourself. Get exercise, get enough sleep, pay attention to your diet, and go to support-group
meetings for caregivers.