We love January. It’s the do-over month. A time to get the proverbial house in order. And if you are caring for an aging parent, the literal house too. January is a great time to assess your parent’s situation and set them, and you, up for success in 2019. Here are 5 things to do in January if you are caring for an aging parent:
1. Conduct a safety check. According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans. Start the year off right by minimizing that risk with a home safety assessment. Look for trip hazards like area rugs. Consider where items are placed on shelves (does your parent have to reach for them or use a step stool). Do they need grab bars installed? The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has a good checklist to follow. Download it here.
2. Create a paper trail. Well, a paper folder, actually. Make sure you know where to locate important healthcare related documents including your parents’
- health care proxy
- advanced healthcare directive
- insurance cards
- list of medications
- primary care physician’s phone number
You should also know where important financial and legal documents are including
- power of attorney
- bank account numbers
- insurance policies
- information on any pensions, annuities or investments they may have.
3. Book doctor’s appointments. If you accompany your parents to doctor’s appointments, schedule their recurring or specialist appointments now. Make sure you get dates and times that work for your schedule, not just for the doctor.
4. Talk about end-of-life. No it’s not comfortable to talk about dying, but it’s smart. When the time comes, you will want to know how best to honor your parents and not have to guess what they may have wanted. Maybe they’ve planned their own memorial, or purchased a burial plot, or under no circumstances want Aunt Ruth to attend their funeral. These details will one day be very helpful to know.
5. Ask about their goals. The beginning of the year is a great time to check in with your parents on how they’re managing and what assistance if any they think they might need. A good way to approach this conversation is to ask your parents what their goals are for the next phase of their life. Do they want to remain in their home? Travel? Spend time with the grandchildren? Address a health issue? Try to listen to everything they have to say before you react. Once you know what is important to them, you can talk about what they need to meet their goals. They may have some choices they have to make: like downsizing or accepting in-home help. And remember, you get to choose how you will respond to their lifestyle choices. What are you willing and able to do, and what are you not?
Bonus! Declutter. If you can get your parents to clean out their basement or give away some possessions they no longer use, do it! And if you cannot, don’t sweat it. You can deal with their stuff when the time is right. No sense worrying about something you can’t control.