Almost every day I hear someone mention the topic of caring for aging parents. It seems only yesterday that my friends and I were swapping colic-coping methods, survival techniques for the terrible twos and picky eater solutions.
Nowadays, the cause for our sleepless nights springs from a different generation, that of our parents.
As the season of “elder care” approaches, there are a number of things to consider. Housing, for instance.
Make it a point to discuss with your parents where they want to spend their “golden years.” Is the plan to move them into your home? Perhaps they want to relocate to a retirement community, in Myrtle Beach, maybe.
Not long after my father passed, my oldest brother invited our mother to tour a nearby senior-living community.
I’m not sure if my brother knew what he’d done was brilliant, but it was. By showing Mom the senior-living community, he made the unknown, known. Because she saw the facility “with her own eyes,” she knew what to expect. The building was clean and pretty, and the staff, very friendly. Mom could picture herself living comfortably there.
Another area of concern is your parents’ finances. My father always took care of my parents’ bills and investments. After Dad passed, Mom and her financial planner did a terrific job managing her money. At one point, though, she suffered a fall and, for a short while, could do nothing for herself. Soon after she recuperated, she added my name to her bank accounts.
In later years, as my mother’s health became more fragile, I made it a point to accompany her to all major doctor visits such as her primary care physician and any specialists. My mother didn’t always speak up for herself, so I wanted to do that for her.
Another topic to broach with your parents is paperwork. Encourage your folks to hire an attorney to create documents such as: Last Will and Testament, Durable Power of Attorney and Advanced Health Care Directive. Without these vital pieces of information from your parents, executing their estate will be painful and stressful. To eliminate the guesswork, make sure you or one of your siblings know where the originals of these documents are kept. User names and passwords are also crucial to know.
My mother passed away last September without telling me or my brothers her preference regarding her body after passing. Thankfully, my sister-in-law recalled a conversation on the topic. Make sure to ask your parents their thoughts on this issue.
Also, after they pass, what do your parents wish to be done with their personal effects: clothing, furniture, jewelry, etc.? Late in life, my dad’s mother used masking tape to label certain items with family names. This was how she informed us who got what.
Have your parents made arrangements for their pets? Thankfully, toward the end of Mom’s life, she and I discussed what would be done with her beloved cat, Rosie. Because Rosie was so important to Mom, we actually formulated a Plan A, Plan B and a Plan C. As some of you know, Rosie is now in the loving and capable hands of Junior-Man, our son Tre.
Since few people are comfortable discussing death, their own or that of a loved one, these are difficult conversations to have. But I can honestly say, you will regret far more — practically and personally — not having these conversations.