Getting involved in your parent’s future planning can relieve a lot of the stress when it comes time to care for them. Here are some ways you can help them plan for the next stage of their lives.
- Communication with family and friends. Make sure they keep everyone in the loop when their health is involved. Ask for updates regularly after doctor appointments. If they have a health scare, make sure they are letting you know instead of hiding it from you. Do the best you can to convey the importance of communication and honesty about any conditions that may come up. If your parents have a trust or living will, etc. make sure they inform anyone mentioned in those legal/health documents. It is best to let them know before they draw up the documents. I have seen cases where someone has a living trust and has mentioned friends and family in the duties of the trust without informing those people. Make sure you know what duties you might need to carry out in the future. Also, it is a good idea to have them introduce you to their doctor, financial planner, banker and attorneys before you have to contact them for anything.
- Analyze their living environment. Consider their physical environment. Make sure it is free of clutter and there is room for any mobility vehicles that they may need in the future. Is the bathtub equipped with grab bars? Are the doorways big enough for a wheel chair or scooter? Will they need a lift or ramp installed? Think about what your parents might need if their physical mobility becomes limited. You might want to research some of the new smart home options that are available. They are better off getting some of these options now and having the luxury of shopping around, rather than waiting until they need them.
- Talk with them about what they want to do with possessions that have sentimental value. Many people forget about their sentimental items that they are going to leave behind. Make sure that your parents inventory them just as they would any possessions that have monetary value. Some people like to give those keepsakes away now to their loved ones while they are still living. That way they can tell the story associated with the item that means so much. The recipient understands the great value that the item has and can enjoy it that much more.
- Play the “what if…” game. Everyone has different needs and wants, so asking your parents questions can help you determine what their wishes might be when/if the time comes. Here are examples of some of those questions.
You could no longer drive? My dad had a seizure all of a sudden and couldn’t drive for six months. He never thought about the possibility of that this might happen, so he was completely unprepared when it did.
You no longer had your significant other around? They should be prepared in case something happens and they suddenly find themselves alone. In some cases, the bill-paying and other duties is the responsibility of one person in the relationship. Make sure they both know what’s going on and plan for this possibility.
You could no longer live at home? We don’t like to think about this question, but it’s better to have a plan just in case. Find out if there is a specific rehab facility or in-home care agency they already like or feel comfortable with using. Come up with your own “What if…” questions customized to your parents and their unique situation.