Regardless of the fact that I have four of my own kids and am nearing 40, I never really let myself believe that my parents might truly age and ultimately not be here forever. That’s a hard understanding to reach when your parents have both been relatively healthy all your life and have consistently been your rock.
But it’s happening. My parents are, begrudgingly, growing older. Eventually, their care will become the responsibility of my siblings and me. And in the last few months, I’ve learned a little bit about things one must have in order to be certain that caring for your aging parents is less stressful.
When it comes to aging, it’s my experience that even our parents don’t enjoy the unknown. They’ve spent so long being in control that letting someone else have a hand in any of it can be difficult.
This is where we can show our parents the love they showed us by helping them stress and worry less. Doing so is one way of returning the love they so graciously provided.
If (or when) your parent needs medical attention — especially if it’s emergency medical attention — there will be tons of questions. What medicine is he on? What types of medical issues does she have? When was the last time he saw the doctor? Who is his primary care physician?
There’s no need for your parents to give you a full play by play of all of their medical visits, but it wouldn’t hurt to have an easy-to-grab folder or file somewhere in their house for these situations. This way, when you arrive at the emergency room, you will have informed details to fill in any blanks.
Additionally, if your parents have had an accident or previous medical concern, create a timeline. This will help when and if they end up at an ER. You’ll want quick answers, so having the information at your fingertips is invaluable. Knowing how long it has been since the accident, what types of medications were prescribed, and how they’ve acted or recovered since can make a lot of decisions easier.
There isn’t necessarily a need to have your parents show you their check book register, but it wouldn’t hurt to know — in general — what types of accounts they have and where. If your parents haven’t already, they may want to consider adding a POA (Power of Attorney) to their accounts so that you can step in if you need.
Additionally, it’s not unusual for our aging parents to request (even if begrudgingly) some assistance in making banking decisions. It’s pretty common knowledge that there are sales people out there who like to target the elderly. In these moments, talk with your parents about potential scams or ways to determine if a phone call is scammy rather than truthful.
This may be one of the biggest issues for your aging parents. There are several elements to consider:
- What happens to their finances?
- Who inherits what?
- Is there a Power of Attorney in place?
- What about a medical Power of Attorney?
- Is there a different Power of Attorney set-up for finances?
- Do they have a living will?
- Who will be the executor?
Most likely, your parents already have a Last Will and Testament somewhere, but they may not have considered the caveat of someone other than their spouse as their POA or executor.
Consider the fact that mom might not be well enough to make decisions after dad passes. If this is the case, there needs to be someone in place as a POA to help.
There really isn’t a need to have the Will read prior to their passing, but knowing your parents’ wishes will — once again — keep the potential arguments and confusion at bay.
Your parents likely have a lot of stuff. They may have taken in items from their own family members as the years passed. Antiques, family favorites, nostalgic items. They all take on special meaning and are difficult to remove from the house. How can you help your parents downsize so that you won’t be cleaning up on top of other more stressful tasks later?
- Start by helping label items that belonged to Great Great Grandma Beulah. If you know which pieces are super important, that will not only help you make decisions later but will also allow you and your parents to potentially pass these items on to someone else who will appreciate them.
- Then, prioritize. Do they really need three copies of Moby Dick just because all of their kids read it in high school and a grandkid might need it later? No. These days, books are available online if needed. Get rid of two of those copies, and move on.
- Go with one room at a time. Pick the room that is the most problematic, and begin to work through. Organize pictures into albums if they aren’t already. Make some decisions about papers that probably could have been shredded 20 years ago. Digitize other items or place into an acid free pocket to save. It totally makes sense to keep great-grandma and great-grandpa’s love letters to one another. But you probably don’t need every piece of artwork your kids sent them.
Bottom line, don’t hesitate to talk with your parents about what happens when they are gone. It feels morbid, but it’s a necessary conversation. In the long run, it will ease stress and confusion when the unhappy moment comes. Helping your parents feel confident in their wishes for after they pass is a pretty simply way of returning the love.
What suggestions do you have for preparing to return the love to your parents?
This month’s Blog with Friends theme is Grandparents. Be sure to check out these other posts about grandparents, elderly, and more.
Grilled Lobster rolls from Baking in a Tornado.
Spicy Chicken from Spatulas on Parade.
“The Story of Them: Alvis and Mollie” from Not That Sarah Michelle
Grandparents Brag Book from The Liebers
Orange Cake and Grandparents from Southern Belle Charm