My grandmother recently passed away, and as I reflect on her life, I’m amazed by how much care my mom and her sisters provided to her in the final years of her life. Every day one of them would go and sit with her, feed her and care for her even though she didn’t remember them most of the time. My mom and her sisters were literally exhausted from the care that they provided, and it made me realize how real of an issue that this has become for many families.
A USA Today/ABC Gallup Poll of Baby Boomers finds that 41% of those who have a living parent are providing care for them either financially or personally, and 8% said their parents have moved in with them. Of those who are not caring for an aging parent, 37% say expect to do so in the future. About half say they are concerned about being able to provide such care. This is the first time in history that American couples have more parents than children. Today, the average woman can expect to spend 18 years caring for an older family member, compared to 17 years caring for her children.
As our parent’s age, and rolls become reversed, it is important families are prepared and as they move into this phase of their both of their lives. A parent’s our primary duty is to strengthen the body and mind of their children. Parents, however, do not accomplish this task alone. They depend on Grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, and the community to help them care for their children. This level of support creates a supportive and nurturing environment. This same philosophy is needed as we begin to plan to care for and our parents as they age.
So as we prepare to switch rolls from child to caretaker, as a family and community, it is necessary to create a compassionate nurturing environment while preserving as much independence as possible for as long as possible
Here are 10 things to consider as you prepare.
- Gather the support and assistance of others. Caring for your parent is not a one person job. Include friends and neighbors, each with a specific job to assist the aging parent. It is important to identify a point person to coordinate everyone’s task. Having a team strategy can reduce the burden of the caregiver significantly. Sharing these responsibilities can even bring the family closer as they care for the aging parent.
- Listen. Take the time to sit down and listen to what they have to say. This is difficult time for everyone, especially them. Discuss freely their needs and at the same time stating your positive beliefs and commitment to maintaining as much independence and activity as is feasible, but ensuring them your commitment is to their well being.
- Do your homework. Read about the aging process so you are informed. Understand what is happening to their body and mind. Meet with physicians and medical providers and understand their concerns.
- Stage a family meeting. Bring the family together with a specific agenda. Define a program to maintain the parent’s independence, activity, and medical needs. From this session, begin to assign tasks. Talk openly about expectation and commitments and begin to assign tasks.
- Check out Community Services and Support Systems in your area. There are professional and volunteer services in every region of the county. These services can be your biggest ally. They are well versed in the needs of this population.
- Watch for changes. Schedule a time for all caregivers to meet regularly or ask each to journal any changes in behavior or physical condition. It is important to address issues quickly.
- Cover your bases, legally. With changes in the laws and HIPAA regulations, legal authorization must be signed by the parent for each family member who is authorized to discuss their care. Medical professionals are able to provide those forms at no cost. It is best to contact an attorney to ensure all legal matters such as Durable Power of Attorney and other legal documents have been prepared.
- Know where all important papers are located. This should be addressed in the family meeting. Ensure insurance policies, bank accounts, stock certificates, ect are easily assessable by a designated family member.
- Know your loved ones final wishes. Careful planning and funding can avoid almost frantic decisions at the time of need. Meet with a professional that can assist you making these arrangements in advance.
- Know your own limits. This can be a very difficult time for the caregiver. Watching your parent’s age is not only sad but lonely. Find someone to talk with about your feeling and make time for yourself as much as possible.
This is a long, hard journey for anyone as it was for my mom and her sisters. But this is also a time that you will never get back. Savor the memories and savor those special days together. You will not get another chance. At Premier Planning and Legacy Safeguard we are there to help you in planning for final expenses and leaving a last legacy. There is no greater gift than leaving something to pass along to your children and your children’s children. Taking the time to make those decisions and making wishes know can reduce precious time and take the burden off those left behind.
Bryan W. Adams is President & CEO of Premier Planning, LLC and Founder of Legacy Safeguard. Bryan is considered one of the nations’ leading experts on final expense planning, and he frequently speaks throughout the country about the importance of assisting clients to gain peace of mind through advanced funeral funding.
Bryan’s passion for helping families prepare for their final expenses came from being raised in the funeral business. His family still owns and operates several funeral homes, and he is constantly amazed at how unprepared families are when a death occurs. Bryan has worked tirelessly to help Americans plan for the inevitable and lessen the burden on their loved ones.
Academy Guest Blogger
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
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San Diego, CA 92124