Witnessing the aging process of your parents can be an emotional and, at times, perplexing experience as the two individuals who once stood as the indomitable forces in your life gradually navigate the complexities of growing older.
In the early stages, the changes may appear subtle, but as time passes, the realization dawns upon you that these formidable figures, who shaped your earliest memories and imparted timeless wisdom, are now traversing a path where their reliance on you becomes more pronounced. The profound shift from being nurtured by them to assuming a caregiving role can stir a mix of emotions, reminding you of the fragility and transient nature of human existence.
Aging happens to us all, but the challenges and emotions are even greater when we witness it firsthand with our parents. This brings us to a deeper reflection—contemplating the aging process of your parents serves as a poignant reminder that life, in all its vibrancy and fleeting beauty, is astonishingly short. Then, reminding you that you too will face aging issues in the years and decades ahead.
It prompts introspection, urging you to confront your aging and declining health, body, and mind and the inevitability of someday walking the same path. If unprepared for this profound reality, the journey of caring for aging parents can elicit a sense of emotional unease, echoing within the depths of your soul. It also increases thoughts about how your children will someday face your aging reality.
Love your parents and be ready to care for them. Many adult children are so busy growing up that they forget that their parents are growing old at the same time.
You may become -- or are now responsible for caring for your aging parents. Many older adults never planned for the costs and burdens of aging. Many older adults failed to purchase Long-Term Care Insurance. Many families discover, too late, that health insurance, including Medicare, pays little or nothing toward long-term health care. You are - or may become - responsible. While everyone has a different relationship with their parents, you can still help make their life easier in a few simple ways:
Make Sure They Are Unburdened by the Aging Process
No one likes the frustration of aging, and your parents certainly aren't an exception. Part of the challenge of looking after them as they grow older is to make their lives as unaffected by the aging process as possible.
Older adults often encounter a range of physical and cognitive changes that can impact their independence and daily functioning. Common aging issues, such as reduced mobility, chronic health conditions, sensory impairments, and cognitive decline, can gradually limit their ability to perform everyday tasks.
Tasks like bathing, dressing, meal preparation, and managing medications may become challenging, requiring assistance from family members, caregivers, or health professionals. The need for support in these areas can lead to a shift in roles, where older adults increasingly rely on others for their daily needs. This transition may present emotional and practical challenges for individuals and their loved ones, often adult children and their spouses. The goal is to ensure their well-being and quality of life.
Without professional caregivers, you may become your parent's caregiver. This could mean offering them help around the house, organizing their shopping for them, or driving them to and from their appointments during the week.
Older adults commonly experience a range of eye and vision issues, varying from minor concerns to more significant conditions. Minor issues may include presbyopia, a natural age-related difficulty in focusing on close objects, or dry eyes, which can cause discomfort and irritation. These can often be managed using reading glasses or artificial tears.
Some simple sight problems can easily be addressed and could be as simple as offering to buy them reading glasses. Reading glasses are available most anywhere, including online, like from websites like Just-glasses.co.uk.
However, more significant eye and vision conditions can also arise. Cataracts, a clouding of the eye's lens, are prevalent among older adults and can lead to blurry vision and reduced color perception. Glaucoma, characterized by increased pressure in the eye, can cause gradual vision loss if left untreated. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects the central vision and can make it difficult to perform tasks such as reading or driving.
These conditions can profoundly impact an older adult's quality of life and independence. An ophthalmologist can provide the proper treatment plan with the goal of maintaining a better quality of life.
Have Compassion for Your Parents
Caring for aging parents can undoubtedly become frustrating at times. When their irritable traits are magnified due to the aging process, or when you find yourself making personal sacrifices to assist them, it's natural to question your decision to help. However, it's important not to let these feelings manifest negatively.
With limited time left with your parents, avoiding bitterness, arguments, or resentment is crucial. Remember that one day, someone will have to care for you, so treat your parents with the same kindness and compassion you hope to receive. You, however, have an advantage as you can plan for the consequences of aging and prepare to give your children plenty of time to be family instead of caregivers.
Spend as Much Time with Them as Possible
As our previous point hinted, you only have a finite amount of time left with your parents. Nothing lasts forever, and one day your loved ones will not be around to spend time with.
Therefore, you should aim to spend as much time with your parents as possible, even if you don't always see eye to eye or they wind you up.
Not only is it good for you, but they will appreciate the company.
Tips on Supporting Aging Parents
When it comes to supporting aging parents, you can provide assistance in several ways. First, ensure their living environment is safe and accessible, making necessary modifications if needed. Help them manage their health care by scheduling appointments, organizing medications, and accompanying them to doctor visits. Assist with daily tasks such as meal preparation, housekeeping, and transportation. Stay connected and engaged by spending quality time together and actively listening to their needs and concerns. Additionally, explore community resources and support networks that can provide additional assistance. By offering a helping hand and being present, you can make a significant difference in the well-being and comfort of your aging parents.
Here are several key points to help:
- Start by talking to your parents about their needs and wishes. What kind of care do they want? Where do they want to live? What are their financial resources?
- Once you have a better understanding of their needs, you can start to make plans. If they need help with daily activities, you may need to hire a caregiver or find a senior living community. Use Long-Term Care Insurance benefits to pay for quality care if they have a policy. If they can live independently, you may be able to oversee and assist when required.
- Be patient and understanding. Aging can be a difficult process, and your parents may need some time to adjust to changes in their health and abilities.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help. Many resources are available to help you care for your aging parents, such as family and friends, support groups, and government programs.
Here are some additional tips for caring for aging parents:
- Stay organized. Keep track of your parents’ medications, appointments, and medical needs.
- Communicate with your parents' doctors. Make sure you understand their treatment plans and any changes in their health. Be sure you have
- Encourage your parents to stay active. Help them find activities that they enjoy and that keep them mentally and physically healthy.
- Make sure they have a safe and comfortable home. Make necessary modifications to their home to make it easier for them to get around and to access their needs.
- Take care of yourself. Caring for aging parents can be stressful, so it is important to take care of yourself too. Get enough sleep, eat healthy foods, and exercise regularly.
Remember, physicians, nurses, and receptionists cannot talk to adult children about a parent's health or even their upcoming appointments unless the parent has signed a HIPAA form giving the office permission to share medical information with any adult children the parent lists.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996(HIPAA) is a federal law that sets national standards for the privacy and security of health information. To access their parents' health information, adult children must typically provide proof of their relationship with the parent and sign a HIPAA authorization form.
The American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging offers this generic HIPAA form, although some doctors or clients may require their own form - HIPAA Form.
A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that allows one person (the "principal") to appoint another person (the "agent") to act on their behalf. This can be done for a variety of reasons, such as making medical decisions, managing finances, or making legal arrangements.
There are two types of power of attorney:
- Durable power of attorney: This type of power of attorney remains in effect even if the principal becomes incapacitated.
- Non-durable power of attorney: This type of power of attorney only remains in effect while the principal is still able to make their own decisions.
If your older parent has a durable power of attorney in place, it can make it easier for you to help them in older ages. This is because you can act on the principal's behalf, even if the principal can no longer make their own decisions.
There are a few different types of power of attorney that older adults should consider having in place. These include:
- Medical power of attorney: This allows the agent to make medical decisions on the principal's behalf.
- Financial power of attorney: This allows the agent to manage the principal's finances.
- Property power of attorney: This allows the agent to make decisions about the principal's property.
Helping Older Parents is a Major Commitment
Caring for aging parents is a commitment that can last for years as their health and bodies decline. Your parents can still enjoy a safe, healthy, and fulfilling life with a little help.
Do take time to prepare yourself for the costs and burdens of aging. For many families, Long-Term Care Insurance is the solution that will provide tax-free funds to pay for quality care, allowing your adult children time to remain family.
Most people add an LTC policy as part of their retirement plan. The ideal time is when you are in your 40s and 50s when you still have reasonably good health and premiums are at the lowest.
About the Author
Maggie Hammond is a proud mama to two little people and has one too many furry friends. She's passionate about alternative medicine, education, the great outdoors, and animal welfare.
Contributor since June 8th, 2023
As you witness your aging parents facing the challenges of declining health, both physical and cognitive, it serves as a powerful reminder to prepare for your own aging journey. Taking proactive steps to plan for the future can help mitigate the potential consequences on your family and finances.
One crucial aspect is to prioritize your physical health. Engaging in regular exercise, maintaining a balanced diet, and scheduling routine check-ups with healthcare professionals can contribute to your overall well-being as you age. By prioritizing preventive care and adopting healthy habits, you can reduce the risk of certain health conditions and alleviate the burden on your family and finances that may arise from extensive medical treatments.
In addition to physical health, it is essential to address your cognitive well-being. Engaging in activities that stimulate the mind, such as reading, puzzles, or learning new skills, can help maintain mental sharpness and potentially delay the onset of cognitive decline. Moreover, staying socially active and connected with friends, family, and community can provide emotional support and ward off feelings of isolation that often accompany aging.
Financial planning is another crucial aspect to consider. Aging often comes with increased health expenses, long-term care needs, and potential loss of income and assets. Planning for retirement, setting up savings or investment accounts, and exploring insurance options such as Long-Term Care Insurance can help you protect your finances and provide for your future needs.
Remember, aging and long-term care are realities that need to be addressed, but it is not just about money; it is about the impact it has on family members.
Long-Term Care Insurance will allow your adult children to remain family instead of being caregivers. Your loved ones will not be burdened with dealing with a crisis.
Be sure to add an LTC policy to your retirement plan, ideally when you are in your 40s or 50s.
LTC Costs Rising - LTC Insurance Helps. Get a Specialist to Design the Right Plan
With the cost of long-term care service exploding around the country, having a properly designed Long-Term Care Insurance plan will address these costs. However, there are differences in policies, and it is important that you look for policies that meet federal guidelines.
This is where an experienced and qualified Long-Term care Insurance specialist will help. Unlike most financial advisors or general insurance agents, a specialist has the training and experience to match you with the right plan. An LTC Insurance specialist, who works with the major insurance companies, will match you with the company offering you the best coverage at the lowest cost.
Specialists will provide accurate quotes from all the top companies and professional policy design recommendations. They also consider your age, health, and family history, which often play a role in underwriting requirements.
Finding Quality Care for Mom and Dad
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- The Ultimate Long-Term Care Insurance Guide
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- What Are Long-Term Care Insurance Regulations & How Do They Protect Policyholders?
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