As your mom or dad gets older, they may need you to take care of them. Their care requirements will change with their age and health, and a little preparation now may help both of you avoid emotional and financial stress in the coming years. Your desire to care for your parents is a credit to your love for them, but you’ll be glad that you took a systematic approach to prepare for the complexities and potential pitfalls of caregiving.
In this checklist, we will break down seven steps to help you more efficiently handle caregiving responsibilities.
1. Collect Essential Medical Information
At a minimum, you should know:
- The contact details of your parent’s primary physician,
- the medicines they take,
- their medication schedule, and
- the pharmacy they usually visit to fill prescriptions.
Medical information should be stored in an easily accessible place so you can get it quickly in an emergency.
2. Connect With Neighbors and Friends
If your parents live some distance from you, it’s a good idea to reach out to neighbors or friends who live close by. Ensure you have their phone numbers and addresses, and that they know where to contact you.
3. Research Hospitals and Physician’s Offices
In addition to information about your parent’s primary physician, you should also research the location and contact information of local hospitals, including the hospital they are most likely to be taken to in the event of an accident. If the worst happens, you’ll want to get there fast, so it’s a good idea to know where they’ll be.
4. Research Medicare, Medicaid, and Long-Term Care Insurance
Dealing with insurance issues for older adults can be complicated, so you should familiarize yourself with Medicare, health insurance for seniors, and Medicaid, which provides medical insurance funding for people on low incomes. You may also want to look into long-term care insurance, which can help to pay for long-term care in assisted living facilities.
5. Consult a Lawyer
Caring for your parents may present several legal and financial issues, including guardianship issues, management of your parent’s money, access to assets and bank accounts, wills, bill payment, and more. A lawyer specializing in elder law or estate planning law can help you and your parents negotiate these complexities and prepare for the future.
6. Consider a Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney allows a trusted individual—you or someone else—to make decisions about your parent’s interests, whether that’s healthcare directives or financial decisions. You don’t need a lawyer to create a durable power of attorney, but you should consider getting legal advice before you take this step.
7. Ensure Your Parent’s Home Meets Minimum Safety Standards
Falls are the most common cause of injury in older people, and millions die every year from fall-related injuries. Whether your parents live with you or in their own home, you should assess the property for safety hazards. You may need to install safety rails on stairs, support equipment in baths and showers, a home hospital bed, and other equipment that reduces the risk of falls and other accidental injuries.
The seven steps we’ve outlined here will help you to prepare for the caregiving role, but the most important advice we can give is this: be sure to communicate with your parents throughout the process. They should understand what you are doing and have an opportunity to express their preferences.