Within the last fifteen years, the number of adults assisting their aging parents has tripled. Twenty-five percent of grown children help their parents personally or financially. As anyone who has performed it knows, caregiving can be a full-time job with significant overtime. It is crucial to prioritize fun, quality time while arranging legal matters with your parents. Your family may be eligible for numerous federal, state, and local resources. Don’t feel like you have to do it all on your own; gather the extended family and notify your employer and colleagues what you are working through with your parents.
When caring for an elderly parent or relative, family members need to work cooperatively. The more people participating in care, the less alone a caregiver feels in their role. Include your parent(s) in the meeting. No one wants to feel excluded when they are the topic of discussion, and their preferences for care must be considered. However, suppose someone has dementia or another condition where they might misunderstand the purpose of the meeting. In that case, it might be appropriate to hold at least the first meeting without them present. Communication is the key to working successfully with a group of people.
If it’s difficult for some family members to travel to the location of the meeting, technology can help: a conference call or the use of a speakerphone can make it easier for them to participate. A videotape or an audiotape of the meeting can also be sent out to all participants who cannot attend. With email, even those not nearby can also be kept up to date on how things are going. You’ll also want to have a set agenda for the meeting and send it out to family members ahead of time.
Work with your parent on the legal documents they have or want to have, such as Wills and Trusts, Living Wills, and Powers of Attorney (Financial and Medical). If they have these documents in place, great! If they say they have these documents, can they find them? Do they know what they say? If those documents are more than three years old, they should be updated. Please consult an experienced estate planning lawyer for advice and assistance. Locate and copy important documents such as your parents’ birth certificates, the deed to the home, and insurance policies.
Make a copy of the fronts and backs of all medical insurance cards, including Medicare and supplemental policies. Find your parents’ marriage certificate. Make a record of bank accounts, social security numbers, credit cards, health and life insurance policies, and drivers’ licenses. Be sure your parent’s primary care physicians have copies of their health directives. Prepare a Grab and Go folder with items that would need to be accessed quickly during an emergency.
One of the biggest oversights caregivers can make is focusing too much on daily tasks and not enough time enjoying what could be their last years with their loved one. Always make time for enjoyable activities with your aging parents. Spend some time looking at old photo albums; record them while they share memories and stories; go out to eat; craft together; go shopping. The time you spend which does not specifically involve caregiving will make invaluable memories. They also renew the parent/child relationship at a time when your parent can feel they have lost their independence or that they have become a burden.
There are services in most communities that can help caregivers and their parents. Calling on these resources can help ease the responsibility of caregiving and provide you with insight and skills that will make your tasks easier. Don’t presume that you know all the ways you can get help. Community resources are also excellent ways to provide you with necessary breaks to tend to your own needs. Look into such programs as meal delivery services; home care aides; hired companions; transportation and shopping services; fraternal organizations (if your parent is a longtime dues-paying member of an organization, there may be resources available through that); Veterans Administration programs; Personal care services (help with activities of daily living, take blood pressure, reminders about medication, etc.).
Almost every community has a local senior center that provides a wide range of community services. There’s usually no cost to join, and it can be a great way for seniors living on their own to get out and socialize. The local Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) is often the first place caregivers go for transparent information on local resources for successful aging. Based on your unique situation, they can recommend local resources that can help your aging loved ones. An adult day center is typically a non-residential facility that provides meals, activities, and supervision. They focus on serving people with certain chronic conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, and provide respite for family caregivers. Most adult day centers are run by hospitals or community nonprofits and are staffed by CNA’s, other medical personnel, and volunteers.
Juggling a career and caregiving can be challenging. It is crucial to inform your employer that you are a caregiver, and the responsibility may affect your presence at work. Negotiating a new or more flexible schedule is one way for caregivers to help balance these two roles. Your employer may offer programs that you can utilize. Just remember, an honest and professional conversation with your superior about your situation is always best. Also, if you qualify for programs such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), your right to be accommodated by your employer do not begin until you have informed them of your situation.
Do not try to do it all! Accepting support from others is as noble an act as caregiving itself. You may feel reluctant when asking for help, but siblings, extended family, friends, and neighbors may be more willing to provide needed support than you realize. Because caregiving is a multi-faceted role, caregivers need to have support to remain healthy and avoid stress and burnout. Caregivers can often become socially isolated when taking on the responsibility of caregiving. Accepting the support of others can help to decrease the chances of this happening.
Widening the circle of people willing to help can mean others are taking on smaller tasks and lessening the burden on the main caregiver. Making a list of caregiving tasks that are needed can be helpful to give others a clear understanding of what is needed for your parent.
Caregiver support groups also meet regularly at hospitals, and online organizations will likely have resources specific to what you and your parent are dealing with.
Medicare and Medicaid are both government-sponsored programs designed to help cover healthcare costs. Since healthcare costs are a significant expense for most seniors, figuring out the role Medicare and Medicaid play in your aging parent’s care plan is essential.
The psychological impact that caregiving can take on a caregiver is substantial. Taking time to relax, keeping a journal to gather thoughts or feelings, praying, or meditating are helpful ways to maintain a sense of normalcy. As a caregiver, you must be in the best shape possible to be caring for someone else. Burnout, anxiety, and depression are all common side effects of full-time caregiving. Allow yourself time to pray or meditate, eat nutritious meals, exercise, get together with friends, and take a break.
Ross Estate Planning, LLC serves Door County, Kewaunee County, Green Bay, and the northeast part of Wisconsin. We specialize in asset protection, estate planning, and business planning for individuals and families, organizations, and business owners with over 40 years of expertise. It’s critical to educate customers about their options so they can make an informed decision. We offer clients and interested clients a complimentary estate planning book and a complimentary consultation with an experienced attorney.