Helping our aging parents plan for a well-lived future: Health and Care – Part 1

By Kelli Kiemle,  AIF®, Director of Marketing and Client Experience

How to best support our aging parents is a topic that’s relevant for many. We felt it important to take a relatively deep dive. This is the first of a three-part series on planning, which will address issues that impact most families. This initial blog is focused on health and care; the second part will highlight financial and legacy planning; and the third will explore technology along with some fun stuff!

The biggest takeaway that we hope comes from this article? Encouraging you to have that fearless conversation and bring everyone together – parents, siblings, grandchildren, and other relatives who will play a role. Getting everyone on the same page will be imperative to the success of the plan.

Start now – even while your parents are healthy and strong

I’m someone who has to have a plan for everything, yet I struggled with researching and writing this series. No one wants to think about their parents aging, especially about concerns that might arise from that. Luckily, both my parents and my husband’s parents are currently in good health – but that doesn’t mean we should stop there. We need to think about the future and how that will look for them and what support we can and will need to offer. Luckily, we both have siblings. We all recognize the importance of starting the conversation and to think through which responsibilities each of us can take on now and in the future.

So much planning for our parents’ futures is dependent on their unique financial situations and their own personal desires. I came up with the following topic areas of things to think about and best practices I’ve observed from friends, family and HH associates. This is the time to start thinking about the future. If you start the planning now it can make things smoother for everyone involved.

Health and Care

With age usually come some health maintenance issues. Eventually, your involvement in medical decisions could be required if your parents are unable to make those decisions independently. Again, these are considerations no one wants to think about, but here are some ideas to keep you on track:

  • Doctor’s Appointments. At some point, you or a caregiver may need to take your parent(s) to their medical appointments. This might be not only for transportation purposes, but also to serve as a health care advocate to ensure all important details are shared with the doctor and that correct follow up is done. Plan to make time for this or to budget for someone else to help with this role.
  • Picking up and administering prescriptions could also become necessary, so decide now what that would look like. You could start now to get accustomed to helping out. Also, check out MedMinder – it helps track and dispense pills.
  • Health Care Directive. This is an important document for anyone over 18. It should be updated and reviewed to ensure that your parents’ treatment preferences are followed in case of an accident or serious illness.  Why not have a conversation dedicated to their end-of-life and care concerns? This would help you understand their wishes and potentially mitigate a lot of emotional pain over future decisions. Be sure to have a copy of this document readily available.
  • Whether your parents are fitness junkies or not, maintaining a fitness routine will be important to their living a long and fulfilled life. They should be taking advantage of the senior discounts offered – like SilverSneakers!
  • Navigating Medicare is important. Depending on where your parents are on the independence spectrum, you may need to start learning more about their coverages and whether they need to make any changes for their situation.
  • If your parent is unable to shop for groceries physically – who will handle this?  Luckily there are a lot more options than there were just a few years ago. A person in the family can shop, order Amazon Fresh or use Instacart, for example. Should they have a caregiver, this person could be responsible for shopping. Setting a budget will be important – more on that in my next blog.
  • Durable Power of Attorney. It’s important to have this set up and communicated to everyone in the family before any mental decline happens. Ensuring that the aging parent has the person they want in charge before this happens is necessary – if not, family dynamics might take over! The family dominator or know-it-all might take over, even if that’s not what the parent wants.

Household Care

There are many decisions you and your parents may need to weigh about their home lives. If they own their own home, do they sell it? Do they need to downsize or move to a single story home? How about moving into a retirement facility that has different stages of care? The choices are vast.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • Do they want to stay in their home?
  • Can they afford to stay? If yes, do they need to modify their home in any way to remain there?  For example, for one of our clients this meant re-designing their first floor to install a master bedroom; another did a remodel to add an elevator. If finances become an issue, and staying in their home is truly important to them, should they investigate a reverse mortgage?  Or a HELOC (home equity line of credit)?
  • Can they afford outside care or will they be dependent on their family for care? If they want to stay in their home, then planning, hiring, and monitoring caregivers will be needed– and a lot of work in itself. Home maintenance should be part of the planning equation: Who is going to handle gardening, or what if a plumber needs to be called? From firsthand knowledge, as I watched my mom assist in caring for my Nana before she passed, caring for an aging or sick parent can be very taxing on an individual. This should be factored in as well, especially if the family member doesn’t live nearby.
  • If your parents don’t want to stay in their home – what’s the plan? Do they want to downsize?  Move into a retirement community or some kind of nursing home?  At what point should this take place? Reaching a certain age, having medical reasons (etc.)? The answers to these questions will all need to be explored to come up with a solid plan. One of our clients chose to initially sell her home for a condo, with a plan to move to a retirement facility if her health deteriorated and she needed more care or she reached the age of 80. The condo proceeds helped pay for this facility when the time came.

Creating a budget around any of these choices will be essential to making successful transitions, whether at home or moving elsewhere. There’s a lot to think about here. And don’t forget the psychological impacts on the parent as well as the caregiver. Self-care is going to be important – maintaining physical and mental exercises, beauty and health routines, etc. will be essential for the success of the plan.

These are just a few ideas for starting the conversation and creating a plan for a smoother future for everyone in your family. As we like to say at HH, continue having these fearless conversations so that you can all enjoy a well-lived life today and in the future.

How do you balance having the life you want to enjoy today with what you’re going to need in the future? Are you doing what it takes to enter your dream retirement? TAKE OUR QUIZ to find out.