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Spring 2024 Edition

Family Life

How To Help Your Aging Parents

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, an estimated 30% of people in the American workforce are caring for an aging parent. Additionally, of those who are not presently caring for an aging parent, 37% say they expect to do so in the future. About half say they’re concerned about being able to provide such care (USA Today/ABC News Gallup Poll survey of people ages 42 to 61 who have a living parent).

Are you prepared to handle the difficult issues that can arise when faced with caring for an aging parent? The following guidelines can help ensure that you make the best choices possible for your parent, your family and yourself:

1. Find out your parent’s wishes. How great is your parent’s need for independence? What goals or dreams remain to be accomplished? What are your parent’s needs and concerns about the future? What aspects of your parent’s life are most important to him/her at this stage of life? Being near family? Seeing certain friends? Practicing his/her religion?

2. Be sure your parent’s legal documents are in order. Has your parent executed all of the important legal documents and are they up to date? These would include an up-to-date Will, Living Will, Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, and Durable Power of Attorney.

3. Learn your parent’s desires regarding healthcare. Does your parent have a doctor who he/she trusts? If your parent is sick presently, what is his/her prognosis and how will it affect his/her personal care, housing, medical needs or finances? If you had to make medical decisions for your parent, what would he/she want you to know? How would your parent weigh the benefits or burdens of various medical treatments? Is there a certain point after which your parent would no longer want aggressive medical care? Are advanced healthcare directives in place (Living Will, Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare)?

4. Find out your parent’s wishes regarding housing. How important is it to your parent to remain in his or her own home? Where would your parent want to live if he/she could no longer manage at home? Is your parent familiar with other housing options available? What if it isn’t possible for your parent to live with another family member?

5. Learn about your parent’s financial resources. What are your parent’s present financial needs and potential future needs? Is he/she in a financial position to meet these needs? Is your parent’s insurance - including life, health, home and auto - adequate and current?

6. Be sure that your parent has all relevant documents, records and information in order and be sure that you or another family member knows where they are. As your parent becomes increasingly frail, your family will need certain financial records, insurance information, advance healthcare directives, names of doctors, etc. Talk and plan together now about how your parent’s affairs should be handled in the event he/she becomes incapacitated.

7. Learn about sources of help for seniors and housing options available. Chore services, housekeeping, home-delivered meals, senior recreation, day care, respite care and transportation assistance are some of the services available in many communities. Housing options include living with family, foster care, home sharing, board and care homes, senior apartments, continuing care communities or nursing homes.

8. Meet with family members to discuss various responsibilities should your parent become incapacitated. Who will be the designated agent on the Durable Power of Attorney For Healthcare or Durable Power of Attorney? Is in-home care a possibility? Under what circumstances?

9. Don’t offer personal home care unless you thoroughly understand and can meet the responsibilities and costs involved. Closely examine your family’s ability to provide long-term in-home care for a frail and increasingly dependent parent. Consider the family’s physical limits. Plan how your own needs will be met when your responsibility for the dependent parent increases.

10. Gather information now on how to care for an aging parent. There are numerous resources available which discuss: housing options, preparing wills and advance healthcare directives, long-distance care giving, protecting and maximizing financial resources, healthcare, community and home-care services, dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease or other disorders, etc. An excellent book to use as an ongoing reference is: How To Care For Aging Parents, by Virginia Morris, Workman Publishing, New York.

Aging Parents: 4 Important Legal Documents

Delaying preparation to deal with the illness, disability, incapacitation or death of a parent is understandable. It is something most of us would rather not consider. However, you can save yourself a tremendous amount of time, energy and perhaps money by being sure your parent has the following:

An updated and valid will which ensures that your parent’s belongings, money or property will be allocated according to his/her wishes. A current will reduces the likelihood of family conflict and an extended and complicated probate process. If a valid will does not exist, the court may determine how property and possessions will be dispersed.

A durable power of attorney which allows a designated person to make legally binding decisions for your parent (such as signing checks or making housing choices) should he/she become incapacitated. Having a Durable Power of Attorney in place means the family can avoid the harrowing process of going to court to have a guardian named to oversee your parent’s care and finances.

A living will specifies your parent’s wishes, in writing, as to the medical procedures to be performed if they become terminally ill. With a Living Will, your parent decides, in advance, specific medical procedures to be administered and the circumstances for disconnecting any life support treatment. It can also specify who among family, friends or doctors will have the power to decide when to make a decision to disconnect life support systems.

A durable power of attorney for healthcare is a legal document which allows your parent to designate a person to make certain decisions for them regarding their medical care, should they become unable to do so. The typical distinction between a Living Will and a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare is that a Living Will usually deals only with medical decisions related to “end of life” situations. A Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare can be drafted to enable your parent to appoint a “healthcare agent” for a number of different medical situations which may arise not necessarily related to “end of life” situations.

Your EAP is here to help

Your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can help you with the complicated processes and emotional impact of eldercare. We can assist you with planning for caring for an aging parent or relative by providing resources and referrals to community providers for legal, financial, housing, medical care, long-distance care giving, home-care services, and other eldercare services. Your EAP can also provide counseling for communicating with elderly relatives and making the difficult decisions related to their care. Additionally, assistance is available to help employees cope with the challenge of balancing eldercare responsibilities with other family or work-related responsibilities. If you need help with caring for an aging parent or relative, why not call an EAP counselor today? We’re here to help.


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Disclaimer: This newsletter is not intended to provide medical advice on personal wellness matters. Please consult your physician for medical advice.