Are You Prepared to Take Care of Your Elderly Parents
Aging in America
Americans are living longer. The average age of death in 2011 was 78.7 years. In the last 80 years the aging dynamic in the country has shifted, which impacts elder care. Who will care for aging family members? How will it be paid for? What factors are part of the decision regarding with whom and where your parents live as they get older? These loaded questions are becoming more and more a part of our culture as the longevity of Americans continues to increase.
Asking the Question: Am I Ready to Care for My Aging Mother or Father?
As a young child your mother or father tended to your needs, which included food hygiene, emotional stimulation, companionship and health. As parents age, children sometimes face a situation that requires sharing the same level of care with them. The life cycle comes full circle as you tend to your elderly parents, who might not be able to keep up with life independently. Experts in the medical profession call this situation “role reversal.”
Considering whether you are physically, emotionally and financially prepared to care for your aging parents is not easy. It forces you to recognize that (1) your parents will not always be alive and (2) your responsibility is to help them age with dignity.
You can start by asking yourself the following questions and considering what each means to both your lifestyle and your parents:
- How advanced/serious is his or her diagnosis? To understand answers to these questions you will need to continuously attend medical meetings and appointments, research and ask questions of medical professionals, nurses and staff.
- What kind of medication is he or she taking? The elderly often take many pills, some to offset the side effects caused by another pill. Understanding the relationship among, frequency of, and price of daily medication is important.
- What kind of insurance will cover necessary treatment? Medicare can be confusing and often can require lots of paperwork. If Medicare is not an option, it is imperative to investigate alternative options for managing medical expenses.
- Is your home equipped to care for your aging mother or father? Obviously, you will need to determine whether you have room for your mother and/or father to live but also consider factors like the distance from your home to the hospital and the effects on pets and children.
- How will his or her physical limitations affect lifestyle? Limited mobility and/or cognitive understanding can add strain to elderly care and often requires additional medical assistance to monitor and manage.
- Is their end-of-life paperwork in place? As your parents near death, understanding their end-of-life wishes and paperwork (will, power of attorney, living trusts, etc.) is crucial.
The best thing you can do for your parents and yourself is to recognize that the responsibility of care will fall on your shoulders and to properly prepare for their elderly years.
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