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Caring for Aging Parents

Art Aiello |
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Art Aiello is a writer and editor based in Waukesha, WI.

As your parents age, you might find yourself caring for those who once cared for you. It can be an uncomfortable role reversal — for both of you. However, with proper planning and open communications, you and your parents can rest assured that they will be taken care of as they age.

Perhaps the first order of business is talking with your parents about their wishes as they get older. This might be the most uncomfortable part of your planning, but arguably the most important. Do they anticipate any issues living at home as they age? Are they planning on staying in their current home or moving elsewhere? Have they chosen an executor for their estate? These are some of the many questions you ­— and your siblings, if you have them — should discuss with your parents before they become urgent concerns.

One particularly important issue to discuss is your parents’ wishes should they become ill or otherwise incapacitated and are unable to make medical decisions for themselves. Discuss whether they would consider making a living will, which will formalize their wishes regarding treatment if they become terminally ill. Such a document can alleviate some of the stress on the family regarding end-of-life medical decisions. Another option is a medical power of attorney. This is a legal agreement that can grant you the authority to make medical decisions on behalf of your parents.

In any case, make sure you understand how your parents want to be cared for as they get older — particularly if their health becomes diminished. Ask them to brief you on the insurance they have available to them. Become familiar with Medicare and Medicaid, if your parents avail themselves of those resources. If you have a parent who is a veteran, you should become familiar with applicable Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) programs.

Knowing your parents’ wishes regarding their finances is important, as well. This is another area in which powers of attorney can apply. Should they grant you power of attorney over their finances, you will be able to legally manage their finances, if necessary. If your parents would rather not do that, they can make you a co-signer on their checking account. Such an arrangement allows you to write checks against their account in an emergency.

In any case, discuss the importance of sound money management throughout their retirement. Unfortunately, preying on the elderly has become a cottage industry among unscrupulous companies and con artists. Having a frank conversation with your parents about the dangers of being taken advantage of will help them avoid becoming a victim.

There are some basic tips for helping your parents “age in place,” i.e., live independently in their own homes for as long as possible. Discuss with them the medical equipment they use or might need. This could include the Motivo Tour, a lift chair to make it easier to get up from a seated position or oxygen tanks to assist breathing. They might also want to consider emergency alert services — the kind in which they can summon emergency services by pressing a button on a wearable pendant. These are important in life-threatening situations in which they might not be able to reach a phone.

See if any modifications might need to be made to their home to make it easier for them to remain independent. These could be grab bars in the shower to help prevent falls, wider doorways to accommodate walkers or wheelchairs or lift chairs to help go up and down stairs. Decide whether an emergency power system is necessary that will at a minimum power lights, appliances and critical medical equipment — automatically — in the event of a power outage.

Finally, discuss whether your parents require a professional aide to come in periodically to help with medical or other personal needs. Even a cleaning service once a week or a few times a month might be necessary as your parents get older. Talk with them about how the hiring decision will be made so that they are comfortable with their new assistants, and how these resources will be financed.

How have you helped take care of your aging parents? As always, we want to hear your stories. Share them with us on Facebook and Twitter

Note: Motivo, makers of the Tour, does not provide medical or financial advice. The information on this blog and site is general information for educational purposes only. Please consult your physician, lawyer or financial planner for specific advice regarding living wills and powers of attorney. 

For More Information:

·         Living wills, medical powers of attorney and other medical directives:

·         Financial powers of attorney:

·         Medicare and Medicaid:

·         Emergency alert devices:

·         Emergency power systems: