A Guide to Helping Your Parents Navigate Aging

Author

BrightStar Care

Posted on

Apr 25, 2024

Book/Edition

Florida - Southwest

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This comprehensive checklist helps families prepare for their parents' senior years, covering health, safety, legal, financial, and social aspects. Creating a senior life plan for aging parents is crucial for their wellbeing and peace of mind. It starts with early communication to discuss a senior’s needs and preferences, considering a caregiving plan, health and medical care planning, safety and living arrangements that include developing an emergency plan. Financial discussions, managing finances without infringing on a senior’s privacy. Legal documentation and insurance reviews ensure all legal matters are in order and insurance policies are adequate and current.

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A Guide to Helping Your Parents Navigate Aging

We’re so used to our parents living independently that we don’t always notice when they begin to struggle with handling daily activities. Changes can begin gradually as they start to slow down, or they can happen quickly, when a parent has an unexpected diagnosis or accident. No matter if you live across town or across the country, proactively creating a senior life plan for your parents will give you peace of mind and allow them to continue to live their lives to the fullest. 

 

Communication 

Approaching aging parents about planning their senior years can be a touchy subject for everyone involved. As a general rule, it is recommended to start having these conversations by the time you’re in your forties, or they’re in their seventies (known as the 40-70 rule). Of course, you know your parents' habits and personalities best, so you are the best judge of their physical and mental health. Here are some factors that can determine the appropriate time to initiate this conversation:

  • Start the conversation early, using the 40-70 rule, so you have time to make or change plans based on your parents' needs
  • Create a comfortable and open environment for the conversation
  • Plan more than one conversation so you can cover all possible issues
  • Take notes so you remember what was discussed and can keep track of next steps
  • Keep a list of all their passwords for accounts such as computer, email, phone, and cable

 

Create a Caregiving Plan 

A caregiving plan will ensure everyone is on the same page about the care needed and how it will be handled as your parents age. If they require additional care, consider how you can support their needs. This might involve coordinating with local caregivers, hiring professionals to assist with certain tasks, or, if you don’t live nearby, planning regular visits to spend time with them.

  • Have a caregiving plan ready in case your loved ones need in-home care
  • Discuss changes to your parents’ healthcare needs with their doctors 
  • Research different caregiving options
  • Find out if your loved one has any specific needs to maintain their health and happiness 

 

Health and Medical Care

A senior life plan starts with understanding your parents’ health statuses and medical needs. When they are in excellent health, it’s essential that their care and treatment preferences are detailed in a living will or advanced directive and discussed with family members. Have this conversation now, during the planning stage, rather than during a medical emergency.

  • Designate a healthcare proxy who can speak with doctors on your loved one’s behalf and make healthcare decisions, especially if they are hospitalized
  • Keep a list of their medications up to date, including prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, supplements, and vitamins
  • Keep a list of your parent's doctors and specialists, including their contact information 
  • Ensure they are following their doctors’ advice and taking medications as prescribed
  • Make a note of the closest urgent care facility and hospital
  • Get to know their primary care physicians 
  • Discuss your parents’ latest check-ups and help schedule upcoming appointments 
  • Encourage your parent to write a living will or advanced directive and keep a copy on file

 

Safety and Living Arrangements

Most seniors want to remain in their homes as they age, connected to family, friends, and community. If your parents are able to continue living at home, consider home remodeling options to help them safely age in place. In addition, develop an emergency plan with your parents and make sure they know what to do in case of a natural disaster or other emergency.

  • Evaluate the safety of their home and make modifications if necessary
  • Review any mortgage or financial concerns about the home
  • Check in regularly, either in person, or by phone or video chat
  • Consider long-term care insurance in case long-term care is ever required
  • Develop an emergency plan and list of emergency contacts

 

Social and Support Network

A strong social support network helps keep seniors healthy and active and gives them a sense of connection, belonging, and purpose. This support can include neighbors, friends, or other family members who can assist your loved one if needed. If possible, foster connections with their support network to have reliable contacts in case of emergencies.

  • Encourage your parents to stay socially engaged and participate in activities that bring them joy
  • Check if your parents have a support network in their local community
  • Keep the name and number of a neighbor who can regularly check on your loved ones
  • Create a schedule of friends and family who call or regularly video chat
  • Ensure your parents have access to reliable transportation when needed, especially if they don’t drive

 

Review Finances

Discussing finances can be tricky. Seniors sometimes want to keep their financial information private, even from family members. Reassure them that they can keep exact dollar amounts confidential, but make sure you have access to the information if you need it. Have them assign a Durable Power of Attorney (POA) to someone who can make financial decisions on their behalf. When going over how your parents would like their finances handled, topics to discuss include outstanding debts, homeownership, savings, and retirement funds.

  • Find out what financial accounts are open and where they are held 
  • Make a list of advisors’ contact information 
  • Ensure they are making informed decisions about retirement, investments, and insurance
  • Stay up to date on Social Security benefits 
  • Check that beneficiary designations are current
  • Make sure your loved ones have a POA representative
  • Streamline bill paying by setting up automatic payments 
  • Ensure they know how to avoid scams

 

Gather Legal Documents 

Discussing and taking care of legal issues while your parents enjoy good health can ensure everything is planned and understood. Make sure you know where your parents keep their personal information and important documents in case you need them. Go over everything together and meet with their estate planner so you can ask questions about their wishes and how to ensure they are carried out.

  • Discuss important documents and where they are stored
  • Find out if your parents have a will and a living will, and where they are located
  • Make sure their POA for finances and healthcare proxies are in order
  • Read through their estate plan/will to make sure beneficiaries and responsibilities are correct and up to date

 

Review Insurance Plans

Regularly review your parents’ insurance policies. It’s essential to know if their policies are adequate, up to date, and where the accounts are located. This information can help avoid undue financial burdens during medical emergencies or accidents. 

  • Make a list of active insurance policies such as auto, home, health, long-term care, etc.
  • Review homeowners, auto, and life insurance policies to ensure they are adequate and up to date
  • Review health insurance coverage for any policy changes that need to be made based on current or future needs

 

Aging Parents Checklist 

Although caring for an aging parent often means taking on financial, legal, and other responsibilities, it can also be a time to reflect on happy memories and plan for a future that includes more joyful moments. The aging parent checklist below can help you ensure you’ve got all the bases covered when it comes to life planning and the next steps for your aging loved ones. 

 

Communication

  • Have the conversation early so you have time to make or change plans based on your parents' needs
  • Create a comfortable and open environment for the conversation
  • Take notes so you remember what was discussed and keep track of your next steps
  • Keep a list of all their passwords for accounts such as computer, email, phone, and cable

Health and Medical Care

 

  • Designate a healthcare proxy who can speak with your loved ones’ doctors and make decisions
  • Keep an up-to-date list of all their medications, including over-the-counter, supplements, and vitamins
  • Keep a list of their doctors and specialists, including their contact information 
  • Ensure they are taking medications as prescribed
  • Make a note of the closest urgent care facility and hospital
  • Get to know their primary care physicians 
  • Help schedule upcoming appointments 
  • Encourage your parent to write a living will and keep a copy on file

Ensure Safe Living Arrangements

  • Evaluate the safety of their home and make modifications if necessary
  • Review any mortgage or financial concerns about the home
  • Check in regularly, either in person, or by phone or video chat
  • Consider buying long-term care insurance
  • Develop an emergency plan and list of emergency contacts in case of a natural disaster or other emergency

Create a Caregiving Plan

  • Have a caregiving plan ready in case your loved ones need in-home care
  • Discuss changes to your parents’ healthcare needs with their doctors 
  • Research different caregiving options
  • Find out if your loved ones have any specific needs to maintain their health and happiness 

Social and Support Network

 

  • Encourage your parents to stay socially engaged and participate in activities that bring them joy
  • Check if your parents have a support network in their local community
  • Keep the name and number of a neighbor who can regularly check on your loved ones
  • Create a schedule of friends and family who call or regularly video chat
  • Ensure your parents have access to reliable transportation when needed, especially if they don’t drive

Review Finances

  • Find out what financial accounts are open and where they are held 
  • Make a list of advisors’ contact information 
  • Ensure they are making informed decisions about retirement, investments, and insurance
  • Stay up to date on Social Security benefits 
  • Check that beneficiary designations are current
  • Make sure your loved ones have a POA representative
  • Streamline bill paying by setting up automatic payments 
  • Ensure they know how to avoid scams

Gather Legal Documents 

 

  • Discuss important documents and where they are stored
  • Find out if your parents have a will and living will, and where they are located
  • Make sure their POA for finances and healthcare proxies are in order
  • Read through their estate plan/will to make sure beneficiaries and responsibilities are correct and up to date

Review Insurance Plans

  • Make a list of active insurance policies such as auto, home, health, long-term care, etc. 
  • Review homeowners, auto, and life insurance policies to ensure they are adequate and up to date
  • Review health insurance coverage regularly for any policy changes that need to be made as needs change

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