As Baby Boomers are entering the Golden Years, their Generation X children are entering a new phase in life: caring for their elderly parents. This is a new experience for a generation that is also busy caring for their own children. Being the middle of a caregiving sandwich can be tough for any adults, especially those who are still working full-time, making house payments, and paying for their children’s college educations.
Fortunately, plenty of people have had to help their elderly parents, so there are plenty of tips available to make this life journey easier to navigate. Whether your parents need assisted living or they are still able to take care of themselves at home, there are several things you can do that will improve the lives of your elderly parents and your life, too.
- Learn about your parents’ insurance: As your parent’s age, you might have to get involved with their health insurance. It is important that you know what they have and how to access it. Elderly healthcare can be confusing, so learning early will help you master the process of filing claims and getting paid for office visits and prescriptions. Knowing how it all works can save you money and time in the long run. If your parents do not have retiree health insurance from their former employers, they might use Medicare or Medicaid – so get to know those, too.
- Get the power of attorney: If you are planning on helping with any vital accounts, like health care and banking, you will need to have power-of-attorney. This is easy to get through local lawyers or legal aid services. It gives you permission to act on behalf of your parents if something happens and they cannot make decisions for themselves.
- Help them downsize, now: After a long lifetime, elderly adults can acquire a lot of stuff. Eventually, something has to be done with all of that stuff. If your parents still live at home and they are able to sort through their stuff, they should downsize. If they do it while they are still able, they can decide what is important to them and what they would like to pass down to you. It might not be easy for them to make these decisions. If it is overwhelming, they can hire someone to help them.
- Start talking about care: Even if your parents are still active and healthy, their situation could change at any time. It is important that they talk to you about what they want to do when they can no longer care for themselves. It might seem morbid to talk about these things, but it is simply a reality of life. By doing this, you will know their wishes and be able to take care of them in the way they want.
- Encourage them to become active: There is no reason for elderly adults to stop being active. Community organizations recognize that people are living longer and healthier lives, so they offer more opportunities for elderly members. Encourage them to volunteer at their local libraries or get them to take yoga classes at local hospitals. They might even enjoy reading books to elementary children at local schools. Encourage them to walk every day or join a local gym to keep their bodies active. Maybe it’s time to finally get your parents a dog so they can take it for a walk each day.
- Talk to them often: You never know when your parents’ last day will be. Once they are gone, that’s it. So, while they are alive, take time to talk to them as often as possible. You do not have to talk on the phone, you could talk via text or even write letters to each other. The average life expectancy in the US is just under 79 years, so consider how many years your parents have left and try to spend time with them, simply because you can. Go out to eat. See movies together. Walk at the park. Do what you can, while you still can.
- Don’t forget about online accounts: If your parents have mobile phones and Internet access, then they most likely have online accounts. And, if you don’t know their usernames and passwords, then you might have some problems if anything happens to them. While they are alive and able to access their online accounts, ask them to write down their usernames and passwords and put them in a safe location. This way, if anything happens, you can access everything that you need. Don’t forget to get their passkeys so you can access their phones, tablets, and computers, too. While you’re at it, also get their Social Security numbers and birthdays, too.
- Take care of yourself: When you are busy caring for your own children and your parents, it is easy to neglect yourself. Be sure you take time to take care of yourself. Eat healthy foods. Exercise regularly and find time to do something you enjoy. It is easy to get burned out and fall sick.
- Make sure their home is safe: Even if your parents are mobile and healthy, it is a good idea to look around for safety hazards at their home.
- Are the railings on the stairs safe?
- Could your parents slip and fall in the bath? Or the kitchen?
- Are there railings on the stairs in the garage?
- What’s it like when your parents have to walk to the mailbox?
- Who is shovelling and plowing in the winter?
- What is their neighbourhood like?
10. Know your parents’ options: Your elderly parents might have several options for care. But, they might not. Their financial status could determine where they go when they can no longer take care of themselves. It is helpful to learn what care their insurance covers and what their savings can pay for, too. You might be thinking that they can move into the expensive assisted living facility when in reality, they can only afford to live in a government-subsidized apartment. You should know what their options are before you have to make a decision. You should also know so you can put them on waiting lists, especially if they can afford something nice.