A Guide To Caring For Aging Parents

For many seniors, assisted living communities and nursing homes are not desirable, which is why many prefer to continue living in the comfort and familiarity of home.

Still, to remain independent at home, modifications are usually necessary. These adjustments may include changes in the home itself, from bathroom remodels to the addition of ramps, as well as regular support from professional and/or family caregivers.

How To Approach Caring For Aging Parents

Many adult children work extremely hard to avoid placing their parents in any type of assisted living or nursing home because of promises they have made to themselves and/or to their parents.

Another factor that lends itself to the desire to keep mom and dad at home is the cost of assisted living facilities and nursing homes.

Caring for aging parents at home requires a solid understanding of how much care they require as well as who is best equipped with the ability to provide it.

Caring For Aging Parents At Home

Your parents may be able to remain living in their home independently for many years; nevertheless, as they continue to age, additional care may be required.

Once your parents need assistance with daily activities, moving them in with a family member (or moving a family member in with your parents) who has the ability to assist them is a great solution.

However, there will be times when the family caregiver has other obligations (e.g., work, school, appointments, etc.). It is at these times when hiring a professional caregiver should be considered.

Evaluating The Level Of Care Needed

While running around performing various tasks, it may be difficult to see the overall picture of how much is involved in caring for aging parents.

To determine the true level of care necessary, make a list of the tasks you are performing. The best way to accomplish this is to make a quick note throughout the day as you perform a task, and make sure to include the time. Instead of writing the information down, consider using the voice recorder on your cell phone.

Take these notes/recordings for a few days and then you can create a detailed list from morning to afternoon to night. By chronologically organizing tasks, it will be easy to see when your parents need the most assistance or if they may benefit from continuous assistance/supervision.

Avoiding Caregiver Burnout By Reducing Stress

There is no doubt that family caregivers are exceptional people who only want the best for their loved ones. At the same time, caregiving is quite possibly one of the most stressful jobs.

Continued stress may lead to burnout or, even worse, the development of a serious health condition. Despite your desire to provide all of the care your loved ones need, pacing yourself is vital to staying healthy. If your health fails, you may no longer have the ability to continue caring for aging parents.

One of the best ways to reduce stress is to ask for help. This is not always easy to accomplish, which is why many caregivers just continue handling everything themselves. The ultimate goal is to save time while still completing tasks on your to-do list, which will eventually allow you to take regular breaks.

Tips To Reduce Stress

  • Ask other reliable family members to assist you regularly. This assistance may include running errands, completing chores, helping with personal care, or taking mom and dad to their appointments.
  • Automate errands whenever possible (e.g., have your parents’ medication delivered instead of picking it up, etc.).
  • Hire professional in-home caregiving help or use a respite care service.
  • Find an adult day program or a volunteer senior companion program in your area.
  • Reduce financial pressure by taking advantage of programs designed to help seniors save on medical bills, prescription medications, and even caregiving expenses.

Taking Advantage Of Financial Assistance And Benefits For Seniors

Many adult children do not realize that a variety of government programs are available to provide additional financial support by offsetting the living expenses of the elderly.

Applying for programs in which your parents may be eligible is vital. Caregivers themselves may also be eligible to receive tax relief through the deduction of medical expenses and/or by claiming their elderly parents as dependents.

Benefit & Assistance Programs For The Elderly

Benefitscheckup.org – The National Council on Aging has a comprehensive web-based service that makes finding benefits and programs in your area quick and easy.

The programs and benefits available through this service are for seniors who have limited income and resources. There are programs throughout all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Many areas across the country have programs available to assist with the following:

  • Prescription medications
  • Housing
  • Healthcare
  • In-home services
  • Energy costs
  • Utility costs
  • Legal aid
  • Nutrition
  • Financial assistance
  • Transportation

Benefits.gov – The U.S. government has more than 1,000 programs that are specifically designed to assist seniors.

It’s worthwhile to find out if your parents are eligible to receive benefits or assistance from the government.

Obtaining Legal Documents

At some point, a family member will need to take control of your parents’ finances.

If you are one of several adult children, it is best to reach a consensus as to who everyone feels comfortable with handling your parents’ financial issues. In addition, there are several other legal documents that are vital to creating a seamless end-of-life plan.

Below are five essential documents that will give you peace of mind and ensure your parents’ wishes are followed.

1. Medical Directive (Living Will)

Your parent indicates his/her specific preferences for medical and/or end-of-life care.

2. Will

While many people avoid writing their will, this document is vital.
Consider creating your own will and using that to encourage your parents to write theirs.

3. Revocable Living Trust

This trust takes effect while your parents are able to control their own assets; however, a ‘successor trustee’ will be named in the trust. Should their mental faculties decline, the successor trustee will manage the parents’ assets.

Since this trust is revocable, it can be changed.

4. Durable Power Of Attorney For Finances

This legal document allows you to manage your parents’ finances.

5. Durable Power Of Attorney For Health Care

This enables you to make medical decisions on behalf of your parents and discuss their medical information with treating physicians.

A durable power of attorney for health care should also include a HIPPA release.

Caring For Aging Parents

When we were children, our parents devoted their time and energy to make sure we remained comfortable and felt secure.

Today, as adult children, we are dedicated to giving them the same security and comfort that they so graciously provided to us.

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