10 Tips to Keep in Mind While Helping Aging Parents
1. Getting old is financially scary. No matter how much money one may have, thinking about covering the expenses associated with aging or dealing with the unknown can be extremely scary. What if your elderly parent doesn't have enough insurance or savings to pay for long term care or a terminal illness such as cancer? Talking to a qualified professional to make sure any possible expenses are covered can be vital.
2. Talking about changes in life is extremely hard
Talking about moving (whether to downsize or to a find a care facility), losing the ability to drive, or having to budget can be hard subjects for an aging parent to face (actually having to plan for it can be even more overwhelming!). Take small steps with a goal in mind. Writing down every step needed and crossing them off as goals are met can make it easier to complete each step. Meeting with an elder law attorney, financial planner or insurance professional can be the first step to creating these lists.
3. Aging parents are often in denial
Adjusting to circumstances caused by aging can cause a lapse of judgment including denial. Thinking about possible illness, moving, finances, and mortality can be overwhelming to an aging parent. Remind them that it is in their best interest and the interest of family that they plan. It will also help them reach their goals of possibly traveling, early retirement, retirement in general, buying a vacation home, etc. Early planning will ensure their needs, wants and desires are fulfilled without interference from family or the government. Broach any topic lightheartedly and with ease, this may help an aging parent feel non-threatened and elevate the denial they may feel.
4. Asking for help or even thinking about it can overwhelming
No one wants to hear that they cannot drive, they shouldn't live in their home by themselves or that they cannot perform tasks that many people their age and/or older may be able to fulfill without issue. Many people don't realize how important their freedom is until they lose it. Assisting your aging parent as they lose one freedom to the next can be hard, they may not see that the new-adjusted lifestyle chosen for them is a good one. But helping them put it into perspective by showing them how much they are cared for and how you are concerned for their health and safety will certainly help.
Aging Parents may need a little help but may not ask as it is hard for them to admit they need it. Focus on paying attention to the aging parent, most needs can simply be observed.
5. Aging parents may not remember everything
Memory can start to diminish for some as young as 20, though it may not be noticeable until later years. You can play simple games with an aging parent to help keep their mind sharp . AARP has some fun-simple games made specifically for seniors.
6. Patience is key
Transitioning into new phases of life can be hard. Please be patient with your aging parents. Remember they were patient with you when you where learning to walk, talk, eat with your mouth closed, and so much more.
7. Don't talk about death
This is another sensitive issue that you should be very careful with. Many times aging parents feel shock when hearing and/or even thinking about their own death even if they have come to terms with it. Some words to use instead of death: Passing, End of Life, Parting.
8. There are public benefits available
Many families and aging parents are unaware of resources and help available from Senior Community Centers, Senior Services Departments, Medicaid and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
9. Plan for the worst, hope for the best
Plan for worst case scenarios, such as needing an estate plan, power of attorney, or financing for long term care for a family member. Planning early can help relieve possible stresses which may happen. An experienced Elder Law Attorney can be very useful in these scenarios.
10. Being social
Losing a spouse or loved one, freedoms, and/or coping with financial issues can isolate an aging parent. Being social can help aging parents better deal with life's changes. Senior community centers and Adult Day Services offer social activities as wells as clubs like the VFW, Eagles, BPOE, and church groups where aging parents can develop friendships and other relationships.