We can hope we will be fortunate enough to have our parents with us for many years, but this does mean that as they age, we may be called upon to be caregivers for them. While this will inevitably be challenging and even difficult at times, the rewards can be great and filled with opportunities to strengthen bonds and forge new ones. There are resources, such as Lutheran Senior Services (LSS), that can help you as you assist your loved one in navigating the aging journey. Planning ahead and being prepared can help make this life transition for you and your loved one a little easier.
- Decide Where Your Parents Will Live
One of the first decisions that needs to be made with your parents is where they want to live as they age. Some families decide it’s best for aging parents to stay at home. If this is the case, it may be time to look at adapting the home for future needs. Changes in health conditions will also need to be considered and what will be done if additional caregiving help is needed. Family and friends or in-home health are options if more care at home is required.Senior living communities, such as LSS communities, are another option for older adults. Life Plan Communities have all levels of living located on one campus, with priority access to more care and assistance if needed. Levels include Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care Assisted Living, Long Term Care, and Short Stay Rehabilitation. Having all of these living options as part of one community provide a plan for the future should needs change. Senior living communities also provide social and wellness opportunities that benefit older adults and help them to have active and engaged lives.
- Inform and Protect Your Parents from Financial Scams
Cyber criminals are continuously more brazen in their attempts to manipulate people to obtain confidential information or direct access to valuable assets. Make sure to talk with your parents about cyber fraud and help them determine if questionable emails, phone calls, or text messages could be a scam. Remind them that if they think something may be a scam to get a second opinion from you or another friend or family member before taking any action.Common scams include posing as a loved one asking for money. Encourage your parents to reach out to you or to the person the request is coming from directly to verify the request before acting on the message. Anytime there is a message asking for money or monetary items such as gift cards, remind your parents to verify the request with a reliable source before sending anything.Help your parents to protect themselves from cyber fraud and scams. Make sure they are being careful about what they share and that they (and you) are watching for common red flags. These include misspellings, mismatched names, abnormally urgent requests, and threats to you or someone you know.
- Compile and Update Financial and Medical Records
As you help your parents prepare for the future, it will be helpful to have all of their financial and medical records updated. This can be a process and it’s important for all parties to be patient as you work together to get this information.You will want to talk with your parents about the financial resources they have as well as any planning tools such as a will that they have in place. This will help all of you as you begin to decide what options and needs for the future are.
- Know Your Parents’ Wishes
As you are gathering records, it’s important to make sure that your parents have the appropriate legal documents in order. Your family should also have a conversation about how your parents want their wishes carried out. Some questions you may want to discuss include:
- If you are no longer able to do the things you once enjoyed or take care of yourself, what is most important to you?
- If you have a life-threatening illness, what sort of medical care do you want?
- If you have dementia, do you want doctors to focus on life-saving measures, or comfort measures?
- What are your fears about growing older?
- What do your final arrangements look like?
- Have you thought about how you want to be remembered?
- What does a good end look like to you? Do you want to be in a hospital with doctors doing all they can, or resting at home?
Starting these conversations can be difficult, but it’s important for you to understand how your parents want to be cared for and, eventually, remembered.
- Establish Boundaries
Caring for your parents will be an extremely important part of your life. But it’s also important for you to make time for yourself. By setting boundaries, with exceptions for emergencies, you can provide yourself with some time to recharge. Respite services can also help you find time for yourself.
- Ask For Help
Remember: You are not alone! Many people may feel like it’s a sign of weakness or failure to ask for help. This is not true. There are many resources to help – support groups, informational websites, doctors, and friends. Be sure that you are using all the resources available to you and to your parents to provide care for them.
As you move into time of your life when you will be caring for your parents, there are many things to consider. Caregiving, while tiring, can also be rewarding as long as there are plans in place and honest conversations happen. Informational resources – including LSS – can help you decide how to help your parents make decisions about their future.