As children, we trust implicitly that our parents will always know what to do. Then we grow up and realise that they don’t have all the answers. For many people, a decline in their parents’ health and independence comes as a shock and raises a host of issues they’d never even considered.
As today’s senior population continues to age, it is becoming increasingly important for adult children of elderly parents to step up and be prepared.
Whether aging parents suddenly sustain an injury after a fall, need to go to the hospital due to illness or need ongoing care due to declining health, many times these big life changes come unexpectedly, says Lori Thomas. Thomas has over a decade of writing experience in the health, legal and consulting industries.
Thomas explains that, while these conversations can be uncomfortable for both seniors and their adult children, it is very important that all loved ones are equipped with some specific information in preparation for the years ahead.
Hoping for the best is not going to solve the unfortunate realities of life. It’s best to discuss these important topics with your parents while they are still active retirees:
- Power of Attorney
All seniors should decide on a specific person, or persons, to act as power of attorney, in case they need someone to take care of their affairs if they are unable to make decisions on their own. This can be physical or mental incapacitation set on by an accident or even an illness such as Alzheimer’s disease. This power of attorney can either handle all decisions, or they can have a health proxy and a financial proxy, meaning one person to handle health decisions and one to handle financial ones.
- Access to Important Documents
It’s best that you have access to your parents’ important legal documents, including their will and bank information. If their memory is starting to fail them and they are unable to locate these documents themselves, Thomas advises that you keep the original documents in a secure place – this may be a safety deposit box or a safe. However, it’s important that you are transparent with your intentions and that your parents are assured that they can access their documents at any time.
- End-of-Life Wishes
This is perhaps one of the most uncomfortable conversations that you will have with your senior parents, but it is a very important one to initiate. Many seniors will have what is known as a living will, which proclaims their choices about end-of-life care. A living will could include instructions pertaining to resuscitation or information on whether they would want to be kept alive if they were to fall into a permanent coma. Living wills are the best way to make sure this information is clear, but children should at minimum know what their parent’s wishes are, especially if they are the health care proxy.
Ultimately, maintaining a healthy relationship based on trust, respect, and dignity with your aging parents is paramount. The important thing is to ensure that they’re socially integrated and socially engaged, says Karen Borochowitz, founder of Dementia SA. It’s about allowing them to be autonomous and independent, but to create a safety net for them.
Here at Garlington Village, we know that as ageing parents require more support or medical care, some major decisions must be made as a family. If your parents or parent require home-based care, assisted living support or frail care, please get in touch with us.