5 Next Steps When You Are Concerned About an Aging Parent
26th July 2019
As your parents begin to settle into their final phase of life, their health, residence, and finances could become a factor in your retirement planning. This is especially true if you are the person your parents have tasked with settling their estate.
There’s no simple way to tackle all the logistical and emotional challenges associated with caring for an aging parent. But these five steps will help you get the help you’ll need to make sure your parent is safe, cared for, and financially secure.
1. Call a family meeting.
No two families are the same, but in most cases, you’re going to want to gather together all siblings and close family members for an open and honest discussion. If your parent is dealing with a serious and potentially debilitating health issue, don’t sugar-coat the truth. Hiding the facts now will only lead to hurt feelings, resentment, and poor planning.
Depending on the parent’s condition, you might consider sharing the responsibility by dividing up care or visits with an agreed schedule or diary. Even pitching in on small day-to-day tasks like helping mom or dad buy groceries can be a big help.
My own parents, aunties, and uncles did this when my grandmother was in a care home.
Nieces and nephews were asked to fill in when an auntie or uncle was unable to make a particular day for any reason. This worked very well for my family, with my grandmother receiving a visitor most days and no one person in the family shouldering the entire responsibility on their own.
If you’re contemplating a more serious decision, like assisted living, make sure you give everyone space to voice an opinion. Try to keep the conversation as positive and solution-focused as possible. Employing a mediator or family counselor to facilitate might be a good option if you’re concerned old family issues could boil over and prevent a solid resolution.
2. Don’t try to parent.
Shifting from the role of adult child to caregiver is going to be a difficult transition for both you and your parent. Don’t try to do too much too soon. Parents who feel like they’re being “babied” are prone to depression or dangerous outbursts of independence, like grabbing the car keys or refusing to take medication.
A better approach is to try to frame your caregiving as a way of being more involved in your parent’s current routine. Put the grandkids’ sports and performance events on the calendar and offer transportation. Bring an extra dish to a dinner party. Drive mom or dad to the cinema......and let a sibling know the house will be unoccupied for a few hours if there is any cleaning that needs attention.
3. Gather the essentials.
If your parent doesn’t keep all important documents in one location, now (with your parent's permission) is the time to collect, copy, and file things like:
- Identification (driver’s license, passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, etc.)
- Bank records
- Home deeds and vehicle logbook
- Insurance records
- Investment and pension records
- Wills and trusts
- Power of attorney
- Login information for important online accounts (banking, subscriptions, social media)
There may be other documents that are unique to your parent’s living or financial situation. We can help you make a comprehensive list.
4. Tag along.
Start attending doctor’s appointments. Don’t be afraid to ask questions that will help you familiarise yourself with your parent’s medical condition and aid with any at-home care like prescription drugs.
Also, ask your parent to introduce you to his or her financial adviser and solicitor. If they don't have a financial adviser or solicitor perhaps you could introduce them to yours. Make sure the relevant professionals have all important information about changes to your parent’s health, mental capacity, or living situation.
5. Plan for the next steps.
At some point, your aging parent may no longer be self-sufficient. The earlier that you and your close family members decide upon an action plan, the better. Do you or anyone in your family have the room, the time, and the means to take in your parent? How can non-caregiving siblings or other family members chip in on associated costs of living?
In many cases, a residential or care home is a more realistic option. But be aware that your parent’s income and assets will probably be required to pay for this. Even if your parent does have sufficient funds for later life care, you and your close family members should still speak to your parent's local authority about their care needs and what assistance, if any, may be available.
None of these steps are easy, and none of the associated options your family settles on will be perfect. This may have an impact on your own retirement planning, either financially or just in terms of having to put your own plans on hold for a while due to helping your parents. The sooner you let us how caring for an aging parent might affect your financial picture, the sooner we can get to work on the money side so that you can concentrate on giving your family the love and support it needs during this difficult time.