If your parents seek to age in place, which is the ability to live in one’s home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, you may wonder how to prepare them for their sunset years best. It’s always best to plan for the future, instead of scrambling in an emergency. Once you, your parents, and their healthcare provider have determined that aging in place is a safe option for them, here are a few steps you can take to help them, and yourself, plan for the road ahead.
What You Can Do To Help Prepare Your Parents
Have the Difficult Conversations
Encourage your parents to complete wills (including living wills), identify who they wish to make medical decisions on their behalf, and find out if they have funeral arrangements preplanned. While these may not be topics that are comfortable to discuss, having your parents finalize their decisions will give you a roadmap to follow in the future. It prevents confusion about “what mom would want” and it prevents legal troubles, too.
Do Estate Planning with an Elder Law or Estate Planning Attorney
According to Abbe Udochi, CEO of Concierge Healthcare Consulting, “This kind of planning will help middle-income families stretch their dollars if a health crisis arises. Add an adult child as a signatory on financial accounts. Determine who a Power of Attorney could be. Ensure the family has a living will and will, so all of the Senior’s desires are documented and understood.”
Make sure that important documents are in a known and locked location. Gather Social Security cards, birth certificates, wills, life insurance information, pension or retirement accounts, bank accounts, and other vital documents so that they can be easily accessed when needed.
Have a Falls Assessment Done
Contact a local physical therapist who specializes in geriatric care, or a certified aging-in-place specialist to make recommendations for small changes that can keep your parents safe as well as to assess if physical therapy would be useful to address any weaknesses or balance issues.
When it comes to fall prevention, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Having a professional evaluate the living space, as well as your parent’s gait, balance and other risk factors could prevent a lengthy, expensive, or damaging fall in the future.
Get All Decision Makers on the Same Page
If responsibilities will be shared among family members, it’s best to check in and make sure everyone is clear and comfortable with their role. Establish a relationship with a Geriatric Care Manager, especially if all family members are non-local to your parent. Sadly, the stress of dealing with medical emergencies can cause rifts between family members. Keeping open communication can help mitigate that risk.
Plan for the Future
Even if your parents are healthy, mobile, and able to take care of themselves today, the same may not be true in 5, 10, or 15 years. Put plans in place for what will happen if/when they become mentally or physically unable to care for themselves – is there a point at which you will hire a home health aide or move them out of their homes? If they move, is it with family or to an assisted living facility?
Says Udochi, “Get to know the assisted living, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, hospitals, supportive residences, adult day programs, senior centers in your area. Do some tours, become familiar with pricing, make choices, and write them down for the future.”
Wire Their Home
Increasing technology to a level that they are comfortable with can be extremely beneficial for you and your parents. Innovative technology arriving on the market looks to help predict changes in cognitive and physical health that could be early indicators of underlying medical issues to discuss with your parent’s doctor.
And even more accessible and mainstream systems offer daily and even preventative aid. Systems like Google Home or Amazon Echo can call contacts or even 911 in an emergency, medication apps can alert you when prescriptions are missed or need a refill, and doorbells can let you and your parent monitor who is at their home.
The places we live can hold deep meaning to us. We remember celebrating holidays with the people we love, the meals cooked in the kitchen, the time spent relaxing in the backyard, and so much more. Staying in the place that we love, are comfortable in, and holds so many dear memories is an understandable desire. It’s no surprise that so many senior adults wish to age in place.
Install a Wheelchair Ramp
If your parent is a bit unsteady on their feet, or hesitant on their front stairs, it’s time for a call to National Ramp and get a handicap ramp. A National Ramp dealer can be at your parents’ home within a few hours of calling to do a home assessment to create a handicap ramp solution that will work for their present and future needs.
A modular ramp can offer security, including strong handrails, to prevent accidents now, even if your parent is only using a walker or cane for assistance, and an existing ramp will create seamless access if their mobility changes in the future.
The decision to age in place doesn’t mean that there aren’t preparations to be made like installing a handicap ramp, looking out for bumps, and removing carpets. But thinking ahead financially, medically, and legally will prevent stress and provide peace of mind for both you and your parents.
What Your Parents Will Need To Prepare Themselves
Decide Who Will Help
Will a family member or friend take on the responsibilities? Will they volunteer or need to be compensated? Are they capable of meeting all the needs? Is professional assistance a better option? Who will you be more comfortable with?
Determining your needs and how you want them met is a critical first step. Your caregiver may become a big part of your daily life. From feeding, bathing, and other household efforts, your caregiver is there to support you in your needs, and you must feel comfortable with them. While a family member may be able to help you with meal planning and light housekeeping, if your needs are more medical in nature, professional help might be the better choice for you.
Once you have determined your needs and how you want them to be fulfilled, here are the next steps:
Put Everything in Writing For A Familial Caregiver
Create an agreement laying out the expectations for both sides. If payment will be made, note the terms. While it may seem awkward to work out these details, it is for everyone’s protection. While you don’t necessarily need the documents to be notarized or legally reviewed, if there are any concerns, an eldercare attorney can put those concerns to rest.
Check Financial Options
Medicaid offers self-directed services for participants, but each state has specific guidelines for the use of these funds. Private insurance coverage will vary by the plan. It may be best to consult with a geriatric care manager or eldercare attorney to determine what financial assistance is available, or how to best cover the cost of care.
Start Your Search For Private Help
When it’s been decided that outside help is the best fit for your needs, start with the Eldercare Locator, a service of the US Administration on Aging. They offer a variety of resources and search options specific to your region.
You may also wish to speak with friends who have hired caregivers to get their referrals and advice.
Seek Professional Consultation
A one-time consultation with an Occupational Therapist or an Aging-in-Place specialist may be helpful to make sure your home is set up with your safety and well-being in mind, from modular wheelchair ramps outside the home, threshold ramps inside, extra hallway lighting, and grab bars in the bathroom. Even if a family member will be the primary caregiver, you may wish to consult with a home health agency about respite care.
Everyone’s needs are different, and as you age, yours will change. Seeking help is a great way to keep you healthy or on the road to recovery. Be flexible with yourself and honest about your needs. Refusing assistance may only put you at risk of a fall, injury, or medical complication.