There comes a point in most of our lives when instead of your parents being there to look after you and help you through life’s ups and downs, the roles become reversed. As your parents age, it falls to you to help look after them and there is a great deal to consider to try to ensure they have a happy, healthy and financially secure old age.
The key thing is to plan. It’s often very tempting to avoid conversations with your parents about the future and what happens if they become frail and less able to cope, but it is so important to have these chats before a crisis of some kind forces you into making decisions, which might not be what your parent would ideally like.
So what sort of things should you be discussing with them and considering yourself? Firstly, if your parents are retiring or have just retired, talk to them about their plans. Sometimes people retire and suddenly their purpose in life is removed, as they are no longer working and this can lead to ill-health and depression. Of course, many people will have hundreds of ideas about how to fill their time, but if not, you can help by talking to them about new hobbies, exercise, volunteering opportunities and even studying.
Technology is another key area in which to involve and educate your parents. Teaching them how to use a computer or tablet can enable them to keep in touch with family via email, share photos, talk via Skype, shop online to take away the hassle of grocery and other shopping, get information and watch catch up TV. Kindles are also very good for older people, who find reading easier on Kindles than with books, as the screens are easier to see and the typeface can be made larger if they need it.
On the legal side, there are a few areas you need to sort out with your parents. It is essential to ensure that they have made a will to make sure they do not die intestate and that their money and assets go to the people they want to leave them to and not to the taxman. Also, whilst your parents are fit and well, it is worth getting power of attorney for the future, so that you can deal with their financial and medical affairs should you need to do so. Without this, it can be impossible to help them with certain things. Your parent needs to be well enough to instruct a solicitor to put this in motion, so it is worth thinking about it before possible dementia sets in or other debilitating medical conditions. You should also discuss inheritance tax issues with them well in advance.
If your parent has a disability, it is worth seeing if you can get them registered disabled as they can then access certain facilities whilst travelling and will be eligible for certain discounts. Also, if you are worried about your parent’s driving ability as they age, there is advice you can get on having them assessed and trying to ensure they are safe on the road for themselves and other road users.
Of course, one of the most difficult areas of concern as your parent ages is care. First of all, can they manage at home and what can you do to ensure they are as safe as possible and that trip hazards and other possible dangers are minimised? There are some very simple things you can do, such as checking carpets, removing rugs and tidying up wires, as well as looking at alarms to monitor your parent if they fall or wander. Also, are they safe from scam callers and is their door security as good as it could be? There is an increasing problem with people scamming the elderly at home, online and on the telephone. If your parent needs help at home, it is important to know what care can be provided by your local authority and what assessments need to be undertaken. Also, if you are employing domestic staff, make sure you ask the right questions so you get the right person for you and your parent. If your parent can longer stay in their own home, you may need to consider alternative care options, which can range from retirement housing to fulltime nursing care or homes with specialist dementia care. Whatever you need, it pays to take time to look at the options available to make sure the one you choose is the right one for your parent. This can be a very emotional time for people and you should not feel bullied or pressured into making a choice.
Guest Post by Deborah Stone at myageingparent.com