Children of aging parents often find themselves responsible for care decisions about senior family members, and planning ahead can make the process easier. Waiting until an emergency occurs makes decisions more stressful, so consider the options available for your loved one early. Three Oaks Hospice offers caring, compassionate hospice care and provides a wide variety of services designed to help families adjust to this new phase of life.
Setting Up a Family Meeting
Discussing senior care and end-of-life care with your parents is the first step to making these types of major life decisions. If multiple adult children are around, you might want to discuss which child should start the conversation about senior care and hold a family meeting with all the adult children once the subject has been broached.
The focus of a family meeting about senior care should be on determining the aging parent’s desires and how to best accomplish those. Listen to your parent’s wishes, and ask questions to help determine what issues are most important. For some seniors, remaining in a familiar environment is most important, while others might value having social connections more than familiarity and prefer an assisted living community.
The earlier you have this meeting with your parents, the more they will be able to contribute to the discussion and make their desires known. You should also set up a schedule to regularly go over these decisions with your parents in case they want to change their mind later about some aspect of their future care.
Planning for Senior Housing and Care
As your parents age, their ability to carry out activities of daily living may become limited. Discuss different housing options with your parents, and be realistic about the type of care you can provide. Many seniors prefer to continue living at home as they age, and this is often a possibility for elderly relatives who do not need specialized medical care.
Before you can make a decision about senior housing and care options, you need to realistically assess your parent’s ability to live independently. Some seniors may only need assistance with household chores, while others need medical monitoring 24 hours a day. As your parent ages, those needs often change, so contemplate what your parent might require in the future, not just what they need today.
Seniors who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia may require ongoing memory care as the condition progresses, while seniors who have experienced a medical disability related to a broken bone or a stroke might need increased assistance for a short period of time but could return to independent living once the condition resolves. Some seniors may need help with transportation to medical appointments or social activities. Others might require assistance with home maintenance tasks or yard care tasks. Knowing exactly what your aging parent needs helps you determine the level of care and assistance you might have to provide.
If your parent plans to remain at home through the end of life, decide who will function as the primary caregiver if assistance becomes necessary. You might want to divide caregiving duties between adult children or hire a paid caregiver to work full time or part time in the home. In some cases, the home itself might require modifications, such as wheelchair ramps or bathroom grab bars, to help your senior relative continue to move freely throughout the house.
For parents who need more assistance than an in-home caregiver can provide, a nursing home or memory care facility might be an option. Assisted living facilities are an alternative for seniors who need some assistance with everyday activities and want to live independently in a setting where they can also socialize with other seniors.
Organizing Paperwork for Aging Seniors
Senior care often involves plenty of paperwork, so getting these things organized for your parents should be a priority. Wills, advance care directives and papers that assign a health care proxy are some of the legal documents your aging parents might need to sign. Having a single health care proxy who makes all relevant medical decisions for the aging parent is important because it ensures that the parent’s wishes get carried out even if the senior is incapacitated and unable to voice specific preferences.
Financial paperwork is another important consideration for seniors, and adult children can help their aging parents organize their finances to determine how to pay for end-of-life care. You might want to assign a specific family member to help manage insurance plans, retirement income and household bills for your aging relative. Staying on top of financial issues can reduce overall expenses in the long run as well.
Try to keep all of the necessary paperwork for end-of-life care and financial management organized in one place so it’s easy to find. Include personal paperwork, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates and military records, in the same file for convenient access. If your parent is not yet ready for some aspects of senior care but will likely need them in the future, also collect brochures and lists of resources so that information is at hand when the time comes.
Considering End-of-Life Care
One important decision that you and your aging parents may have to make is when to move from pursuing treatment options into hospice care. When a senior enters hospice care, treatments for specific conditions are discontinued and care becomes focused on comfort and quality of life. During your initial discussion with your parents about senior care, bring up this topic so they can determine at what point they would consider transitioning to hospice care.
The Emotional Impact of Dealing with Aging Parents
Making major life decisions and facing the end of life can take an emotional toll on seniors and their families. Many seniors have to deal with the adjustment in life circumstances while also coping with the loss of a spouse or lifelong friends. Some seniors become depressed or anxious and may fight against making necessary decisions. Compassionate therapeutic care can help seniors get through the emotional stress of this time in life.
Families dealing with aging parents may also need emotional support. Bereavement counseling can help those who are dealing with a relative who has a terminal illness.
Three Oaks Hospice understands dealing with aging parents can be difficult for loved ones and offers comprehensive support to family members of our patients. For additional information on our palliative care and hospice services, please contact us today to learn more.