May 2014

Health & Wellness: Family Discussions on Caring for Aging Relatives

Author: Gregg Fulton

Summer celebrations and family reunions are a natural time to catch up face to face and take a few minutes to talk about future care for elderly parents or other aging relatives. Family gatherings afford a comfortable setting to initiate a dialogue between seniors and their children about current and future health, financial and legal issues.

In bringing up the well-being of senior family members, it’s important to keep the conversation relaxed so as not to overwhelm or distance anyone. If the elderly parent(s) or relative is capable of participating, he or she should be involved in the open discussion. If long-distance children cannot attend, consider connecting via Skype, voice chat or a conference call during the family meeting. At minimum, those who cannot attend should receive an update, preferably in writing. Respect, love and sensitivity are vital in the conversations about a senior loved one’s care.

“In serving seniors and their family members, we understand the complexities of making the best decisions possible for the immediate and long-term needs and wishes of older adults,” explained Gregg Fulton, president Right at Home Bluffton. “Caring for parents or other seniors can be exhausting and emotions can flare, so one of the most valuable things any family can do for an aging loved one is to start talking about ‘someday’ care issues before they need to be implemented.”

Right at Home, a leading provider of in-home companion and personal care to senior citizens and disabled adults, provides expertise and resources to help plan for an aging loved one’s comprehensive needs. The following is a list of topics and questions to address with an elderly loved one(s):

Financial
-Determine the loved one’s overall financial situation. Will there be a need for supplemental income? How will family members help with any current and future financial needs?
Compile a list of financial assets and their value (include Social Security and pension deposits, annuities, stocks, interests, IRAs, CDs, etc.).
-Create a list of debts and financial payments (include mortgages, car payments, insurance, etc.).
-Keep all financial, insurance and legal documents within easy access.
-Keep a list of all financial and investment institutions (including safety deposit boxes) with account numbers, access details and contact information.
-Help the senior consult with a financial advisor to discuss financial planning, transferring of assets, tax issues, etc.

Legal
-Make sure the loved one has an up-to-date will, living will and other advance health directives, including a durable medical power of attorney and financial power of attorney.
-Discuss the benefits of consulting with an elder care attorney or family attorney skilled in estate planning, healthcare planning, etc.

Medical
-Assess the loved one’s current health and discuss any necessary doctor visits.
-Compile a list of current prescriptions and over-the-counter medications. Note any allergies and medication interactions to avoid.
-Determine if medical coverage is adequate. If not, talk through other options.
-Document details of prescription plans, long-term care insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.
-Discuss your loved one’s wishes and healthcare decisions in case he or she becomes incapacitated or unable to make decisions.
-Create a list of all medical providers with key contact information. Keep the list updated and make copies available to the main caregivers.

Caregiving roles and living arrangements
-Determine who the principal caregiver will be and who will share responsibilities (doctor visits, medication supervision, etc.).
-Discuss how family members can share information and express feelings.
-Develop a plan for involving timely caregiving help.
-Discuss options for when your loved one needs in-home care or cannot live alone.

Openly discussing an older family member’s possible future needs today will lessen stress and tension once additional care is needed. With a commitment to supportive concern and communication, caring for an aging loved one can bring a sense of love and unity to any family. 

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