When Is the Right Time to Start Talking to Older Parents About an Aging Plan?

I am often asked questions similiar to this:

“When should I start talking to my aging parents about the concerns for their safety… healthcare… or plans for aging?”

My answer is typically something like this:

“It’s never too early, but it can get to be too late when a sudden health care event occurs…”

I know, you may be thinking, “This is sounding already like pre-planning.” And, you are right. Pre-planning for what to do when we age is something even we, baby-boomers can start considering. Especially when you look at healthcare and housing costs for seniors these days. Keep in mind that not only are people living longer, but the economics within the healthcare system are going to be no less complicated than at present.
Not to mention, do you know about the different options available for receiving care (in- home, nursing home, facility, etc.)? Pre-planning for our aging loved ones who may become unsafe at home, or worse- they develop chronic health conditions and become increasing dependent, is a serious matter, requiring a certain level of high priority in family decision making.

The truth is this. It’s never too early to plan ahead for an aging loved one’s health care needs as they get older. It is a tough issue when I meet a family who never thought of planning ahead, and all of the sudden, it’s too late as an aging parent has become unable to care for themselves, or the other parent is also chronically ill and unable to care for their spouse. This scenario gets even trickier when an aging loved one is no longer to make health care decisions and no advance directive or power of attorney was put in place. These matters usually end up in court, unfortunately, especially, if one aging parent is deceased and the other is deemed “legally incompetent.” Some families have a difficult time coming to agreements on how to care for a parent, or what to do as far as “placement” goes. Simply put, care-giving is never easy, even when the “legal papers” are in place, and there is no real family disagreement. It’s the day in, day out task of caring for an aging loved one, that can become very overwhelming. Care-givers will tell me how they wished they had contacted me sooner to plan ahead for an aging parent since the peace of mind offered is priceless.

So where is a good place for an actual or potential care-giver to start, you ask? OK. Let’s start with making a list of concerns that you may have for an aging loved one, such as; what health issues do they have, who is your loved one’s primary care physician, what are current resources (long term care insurance, assets to help pay for long term care if no long term care insurance present, family and friends to help, etc.), what disease or medication management issues exist, what ” legal papers” do exist- for starters. There are a lot of moving parts to planning for a loved one’s care!

I suppose a question that comes to mind quite often, is that of placement. It’s not easy when a loved one has to go to a nursing care facility, or it gets really tough when an adult child reports this or that idea was against their aging loved one’s wishes. Sometimes, alternative plans that are out of our own control requires some time to discuss the reality of the situation and allow for care-givers to vent feelings of guilt and/or mixed emotions. There needs to be some careful research before finding that right care place at the right time of care-time need! There are varying degrees of “levels of care” that should be carefully understood while mapped out, before considering placement, and that in and of itself will be a great topic for a future post.

Always call a board certified care manager first. Go to the Aging life Care’s webpage: https://www.aginglifecare.org/ to find an aging life care expert in your area. Just follow the prompts for “FIND AN AGING LIFE CARE EXPERT.”

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