Aging is indeed part of the circle of life. If we are all lucky, one day we will repay the favor of our parents who took care of us, by taking care of them. This is a time in one’s life that is not easy and must be taken care of. In my line of work, I have witnessed the toll and stress that caring for an aging parent can have on both the child and the parent. Although not an easy task, there are definitely best practices developed by many elderly care experts that I thought would be appropriate to share with you here today.
Below is a seven-step practical and easy-to-follow guide for caring for an aging parent (or family member):
1. Assess their needs.
Start by understanding your parents’ specific needs in all areas of their lives. This should range from family support, home safety, medical needs, mental health, mobility, personal care, meal preparation, social interaction and exercise. It is important at this stage that you properly assess what current support is in place in these areas and where additional support/resources are needed.
Subscribe to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance
Be a smarter, smarter investor.
Save up to 74%
2. Consider your capacity.
Although we all want to help our most precious loved ones, it is important to do some self-evaluation of your actual capacity to do so. You should assess your own health, intimacy, living preferences and quality of relationship with your significant other.
Being able to recognize when you are not the right caregiver is just as important as knowing when you are the right person. This should allow you to understand where you need some help and where you don’t.
3. Get your parents involved.
This is an important step to not make decisions in a vacuum. You should absolutely, if they can, involve your parents in these discussions. It’s safe to say that they probably have some opinions on who, what and where their aging needs are. I will also add here to include your immediate family as well, because, they say, it takes a village.
4. Understand their finances.
Bet you didn’t see this coming?! Caring for the elderly is not only physically and mentally draining, but can also be financially draining. Before curating a care plan, it is important to understand the financial landscape. The questions to ask are what kind of care do you expect your parents to need? What is the estimated future cost of their needs? What do their finances look like now? Is there someone in your family who will help financially if needed?
Answering these questions will help you assess financial needs and, thus, understand what is optional for care. I also highly suggest engaging your, or their, financial experts to help assist in this process.
5. Make sure their home is safe.
Remember how I said life comes full circle? Bet you remember baby proofing your house back in the day so your kids wouldn’t smash their little heads in it. Well, full circle, here we are. You want to “parent proof” your parents’ house to avoid accidents.
This can include home renovations, decluttering, installing grab bars, improving lighting and making general accessibility improvements as needed. This is an important step and one that allows your loved ones the dignity to remain in their own home for as long as possible.
6. Ease of communication.
Regardless of your ability to physically care for your loved ones, each of us can help with a communication plan. This cuts both ways. For starters, you’ll want to make sure your parents have appropriate communication devices available to reach in times of need.
In addition, you can help by overcoming loneliness. Just because you’re super busy every day, doesn’t mean your elderly parents are either. Always take the time to contact and check in with these special people. This is the easiest thing to do and probably the longest in preserving dignity for everyone.
7. Explore care options.
The final stage is to fully understand what care options are available. You can do this yourself or hire a professional geriatric care manager. You or they can help assess what housing options or assisted living options are available based on wants, needs and finances.
Even if you’re not ready to use the options now, it’s important to know where you’re going if/when you arrive.
If you follow these seven easy steps, you will at least have a good start in handling this difficult time in your life with dignity. There are many professionals who can help along the way, so take a good look in the mirror when considering what you can and can’t do. Get help, get your family involved and handle it with care. Sending love to everyone, and stay rich, healthy and happy.
Diversified is a registered investment adviser, and registration as an investment adviser does not imply any specific level of expertise or training and is not an endorsement of the firm by the SEC.
A copy of Diversified’s current written disclosure brochure that discusses, among other things, the company’s business practices, services and fees, is available through the SEC’s website at: www.adviserinfo.sec.gov.
Diversified, LLC does not provide tax advice and should not be relied upon for the purposes of filing taxes, estimating tax liabilities or avoiding any tax or penalty imposed by law. The information provided by Diversified, LLC should not be a substitute for consulting a qualified tax advisor, accountant, or other professional regarding the application of tax law or an individual tax situation.
Nothing provided on this site constitutes tax advice. Individuals should seek the advice of their own tax advisor for specific information about the tax consequences of investments. Investments in securities involve risk and are not suitable for all investors. This site is not a recommendation or an offer to sell (or the solicitation of an offer to buy) securities in the United States or in any other jurisdiction.
This article was written and presents the views of our contributing advisor, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check advisor records using DECLARED by SEC or with FINRA.