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Aging Parents: Plan for All Seasons

Do your elders want to live at their own home as long as they can? Do they have a vision for where they’ll want to be if the time comes when they need care?  Does each family member have a role?

First – talk to your elders. Do they want to live in their current home as they age (called aging in place)? Do they want to move to a retirement community where there is a continuum of care (independent living to assisted living to nursing or memory care, if needed)? Do they want to move to be near you or one of your siblings? Do they already have a retirement residence where they want to move?

This first step is critical. Discussing these details with your elders puts everyone on the same page. It brings all the parties who will be a part of their care into the same discussion. You can better accommodate their vision if you know what it is.

Waiting until the first emergency is not a plan. The resulting panic will probably not result in a decision that looks like what it would have if you had developed a plan and executed it.

Second – Based on input from your elders, your siblings and/or other family members, work toward developing a plan that incorporates your elder’s wishes, takes your own needs into consideration and can be accomplished within the budget that your family has.

If they want to age in place, you can help your elders make necessary accommodations to their home or property. Do those things now, before an emergency would make those changes infeasible.

If assets need to be sold to build a budget for care, work on a plan to maximize revenues and minimize the hassle of having to sell immediately because they need the money.

If they want to live with you, near you or near one of your family members, start looking for the right residential fit. If it’s in your home, you can start making any necessary changes now – additions, retrofits for older folks, etc. If it is moving to a retirement or assisted living facility residence, check out what’s available and arrange for a tour. Whatever their choices are, develop a plan, move to the next steps and don’t wait.

If your elder already has a retirement residence, are there any accommodations that might need to be made as they age? If yes, decide when/how those can be cost-effectively made and set a timeline in place. It may not be needed now, but determine at what point the changes would need to be made and stay on track to make them if the need arises.

Third – Know that even the best plans change. Keep an open mind about what might happen if their health changes or they need more care than can be given where they planned to live. Make them aware that you will incorporate their wishes and their vision as much as you can.

Have a positive attitude about this journey. Know it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Laugh as much as you can. Giggle when you find something funny and share that giggle with your elder.

If you know what your elder wants, you can develop a plan that incorporates your needs as well, recognizing that life happens and things change. You will have gone a long way to ease your stress in the caregiving/caretaking role. Frustration arises most often when an emergency happens, no plan is in place and you find yourself in PANIC mode. Making decisions in the PANIC mode produces the MOST stress and the LEAST optimal solutions.

Get out your calendar and set a date with your elders.  With the holidays coming up, now is the perfect time to talk to your elders with the whole family there.

Start the conversation.

By Suzanne Asaff Blankenship

Suzanne’s experience with eldercare came the hard way – by doing it. Suzanne has two decades of experience managing her mother’s care as well as sharing the care for her in-laws. After years of sharing stories and receiving requests for advice, Suzanne found she wasn’t alone in her eldercare journey, or in her search for solutions. With her unique approach of organized preparation sprinkled with her tongue-in-cheek humor, Suzanne guides others skillfully through the challenging experience of eldercare.

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