As Aging Life Care professionals, we work with the adult children of aging parents every day.  We see the worry in their faces. We are painfully aware that as the years pass by, appearances change, steps grow slower, minds struggle to recall.  We experience these changes with our clients, everyday and most of us have experienced it in our own lives, with our own parents.

It can be difficult to accept the new challenges our loved ones face as they grow older and even more difficult to address them.  So many times, our clients wait too long to talk to their loved ones about the future and, by then, the uncertainty of what to do can be paralyzing.

Open and honest conversations with our parents about a long term care plan is a proactive approach to aging.  For the family, caregivers, the care team, the goal is to review your parent’s needs & desires, develop a plan, put the necessary pieces in place and then execute…BEFORE you are faced with a health crisis.

WHEN Is The Right Time?

Many Aging Life Care professionals agree that the 40-70 Ruleâ is a great benchmark.  When you, as an adult child, turn 40 years old OR when your parent turns 70 years old.  It’s time to talk (if you haven’t already).  Time to sit down and implement an ongoing conversation.

It can be an empowering process, insuring we’re on track, taking the right steps to manage our health and wellness.  Actively speaking with your parent about their goals, changing needs and end of life wishes will insure that everyone is on the same page.

WHY Do We Need To Do This?

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Abraham Lincoln

Think about the stress and uncertainty that you feel when something unexpected happens?  Now imagine that the something is a health crisis facing your loved one and you must make quick decisions on their care.  Maybe you have the information, maybe you don’t.  Just thinking about it…you can feel your stress level rising.

Now imagine that all of your parent’s wishes are clear and communicated, their important information is readily available and you know exactly who to contact and what to do.  More manageable?  Certainly.

These critical conversations take the guess work out of what is already bound to be a difficult and emotional time for you, your parent and the rest of your family.  Why have these conversations?

  • To take control of the situation before it takes control of you.
  • To empower caregivers to carry out loved one’s wishes
  • To reduce the stress associated with end of life health, financial, and legal decisions.

The Five Question Guide for Senior Care Planning

Sitting down with your aging parent will help you gain clear understanding of your parents’ wishes and how they would prefer their aging journey to play out.  Use these 5 questions to guide the conversation:

Where do you prefer to live?  There are many options that offer varying levels of independence and financial commitment.  It’s very possible that your parent has one idea in mind while you have envisioned something very different. Explore the possibilities and have an honest discussion about what considerations would need to be made to fulfill your parent’s wishes including their financial and care needs.

What is the current financial situation?  This includes general information such as bank accounts, financial documents, available savings/funds as well as social security and other entitlements that can be used towards care.  Decision makers need to have access to this information, including banking, financial planning and investment contacts.

What is the current health situation?  Ask for all physicians currently treating your parent, including medications, medical records, hospital affiliations and contact information.  Access to medical records is critical for many reasons.  Many times, practitioners treating your loved one, aren’t communicating or sharing information.  Medical records are also crucial for the coordination of care.  Family decision makers must have a clear picture of parent’s health in order to make quick decisions with the care team. This is also a great time to review current physicians and determine if something is missing.  Insurance is also something to discuss – Medicare, supplemental insurance coverage that is active. Other issues to discuss include advanced directives, DNRs, and organ donation intentions.

What legal arrangements are in place for long term care and estate?  This is the time to discuss important legalities, including powers of attorney, in the case that an individual is unable to make decisions on their own behalf.  Specific individuals such as adult children must be named and legally assigned to make these decisions.  Identify whether their will has been updated in the last 5 years and where you can find it.  Does your parent have an advanced directive (living will)?  Elder Care attorneys are important professionals when creating your parents’ care team. They are experts in Medicaid planning, estate preparation, and legal documents. NAELA is the certifying body that helps you identify these qualified professionals in your area.

Who Are The Primary Decision-Makers?  Designate primary decision makers.  Make sure this is clear to all family members and other stakeholders to avoid confusion later.  This can be a particularly contentious part of the process where feelings can be hurt.  Decision makers should be chosen for their ability to make decisions, communicate and mediate amongst family members. Your elder law attorney can be extremely helpful in the wording and considerations at play.

End of life decision making is not pleasant but can be framed in a positive, realistic way. But it can make all the difference in the future and can be very empowering for your aging parent and your family as a whole!  By taking a proactive approach, your parent can control their aging journey. The Aging Life Care professionals at Complete Care Strategies can assist you every step of the way.

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Beverly Bernstein Joie is the founder and president of Complete Care Strategies, a senior care management company serving Philadelphia and its surrounding communities.  A Certified Aging Life Care Manager with more than 20 years of experience, Beverly has worked in senior care since 1994, both in assisted living communities and in private practice. She is a member of the Aging Life Care Association and was a former president of the Philadelphia Chapter.

Complete Care Strategies consists of care managers, specialized human service professionals, who advocate and direct the care of seniors and others facing ongoing health challenges. Working with families, its expertise provides the answers at a time of uncertainty. Along with its licensed home care division, it can help clients safely remain at home under the watchful eye of skilled professionals. Families are afforded an integrated model of care that with guidance and advocacy, lead them to the actions and decisions that ensure quality care and an optimal life for those they love.