It’s hard coming to terms with getting old – for you and your aging parents. It may seem easier to stick our heads in the sand and hope for the best. But the truth is, taking time to prepare now before parents need help is the key to helping them achieve the highest quality of life later. In Benjamin Franklin’s words, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
So take a deep breath, call your parents and siblings to set up a family meeting, and get started with these tips.
- Include everyone. The African proverb “It takes a village” was a reference to raising a child, but is equally suitable to caring for an aging parent. Everyone should and will need to be involved. Consider and enlist the support of any and every family member – siblings, spouse, significant others and of course the seniors. The last thing you want to do is cause family friction by excluding someone with a vested interest in your aging parents’ wellbeing.
- Prepare an agenda. Be thoughtful and deliberate in what and how you begin the discussion. Remember, this will likely be the first time any of you have discussed the topic of aging and senior care. Before the family meeting, gather input from those who will be attending on any points they want to cover. If you find there are too many topics to reasonably cover in one meeting, set aside lower priority items for a future meeting.
- Do your homework. Aging is a journey without a well-defined roadmap. It involves discussion and decisions on complex topics around needs and resources related to daily living, health, finance, and legal matters. Take time to conduct some research in advance to ensure you or someone else can guide the discussion. If one of the subjects is creating a living will, for instance, find out what’s involved in the process and bring that information with you.
- Set expectations. There’s a lot to cover and a near certain probability not everyone will agree. The most important thing to get agreement on is that it’s ok to disagree so long as you respect others people’s thoughts and opinions. Be patient and attentive to everyone’s position, particularly your parents’, and be sure everyone has a voice and is heard in the meetings.
- Develop a plan – or two. During the course of the meeting, talk through the “what ifs” for different scenarios, and how those will ideally be addressed. Include a short-term plan for unexpected emergencies your parents may encounter, as well as a long-term plan for future care needs.
- Review documents. Now is the time to ensure all of your parents’ important paperwork is in order: wills, powers of attorney, legal documents, etc. Agree upon a safe location to keep everything together, such as a safe deposit box at the bank.
- Establish a baseline. Take an honest assessment of the current wellness/impairment state of your parents, and schedule routine check-ins to update that status ongoing. This proactive approach to your parents’ health can prevent dangerous repercussions if a decline should occur and go undetected.
- Set to-dos and schedule the next meeting. Summarize the key takeaways from the meeting, along with any responsibilities each person may have agreed to take care of. Schedule the next meeting to update each other on any progress made and to determine next steps.
If you find that family dynamics are making it difficult to reach agreement on important matters, it may be best to put the meeting on pause. Reschedule the meeting, and invite a trusted, objective third party to help mediate the discussion.
While it may not be easy or pleasant to talk through the upcoming care needs of your aging parents, doing so now can help you avoid a potential crisis. Having a plan in place and the whole family on board to implement it can ease the transition to care when the need arises.
Contact Right at Home Sarasota, the leaders in Venice home care services and throughout the surrounding area, for more tips to help you prepare for aging. We’re always here to meet your in-home care needs throughout southwest Florida when the time comes. You can reach us any time at (941) 929-1966.