Mom and Dad were both healthy and active into their eighties. Life was good.
Then a series of strokes left my dad in need of more care than my mom could manage; their transition began in earnest. My two siblings and I went through it along with our parents. It was tough accepting that a line had been crossed, and they were never going back to the independent lives they’d lived.
Watching a parent age is difficult, and siblings do respond differently. I’m an organizer. Purging our family home of paper and unused items relieves my stress, but I learned this had the opposite effect on my siblings. Each of us has an individual emotional connection to my parents’ belongings and our own views on which items have value.
My sister is a medical professional whose background gives her a level of knowledge and expectations distinct from my brother and me. Where we might be more flexible, she sees the need for following protocols related to medical care and is often more demanding of the caregiving team. Navigating these relationships can be challenging, but her expertise has been invaluable.
“There has to be a better way,” I’ve told myself over and over. Helping aging parents has been a rocky journey.
Since my brother lives out of state, his contributions to my parents’ care have taken the form of managing their trust, ordering supplies, and long-distance troubleshooting everything from plumbing to internet access. FaceTime has been a great tool for them to see one another. During visits, he makes home repairs and treats my mom to foods not(!) on her usual diet.
In-home caregivers are angels. We’re lucky to have a great team caring for my mom. I’ve gone to the doctor with a list of concerns that the caregiver identified. They provide company and affection to my mom who misses my dad terribly. I could go on and on with the blessings we’ve received from these women.
The practical side of caregiving covers three areas: medical decision making, financial, and physical plant. Get help, be organized, and proactive.
We used a Kentucky ElderLaw lawyer for wills and financial planning, including the formation of a trust. Identify and locate all assets. Do this sooner than later. I was lucky, my parents opened all their financials when I asked. Make a binder with the power of attorney (POA) and wills. Grab it when you’re running to the hospital. Keep a copy of the POA in your car. Automate everything you can, especially bills and medication delivery. Enlist the services of an accountant and utilize online banking. Make a plan for food service when your parent can no longer prepare meals. Lawn service and snow removal, even when your family is providing the service, must be arranged.
Next, consider where your parent will live when in-home care is no longer an option. How will you dispose of the home? You’ll need a realtor. Consider hiring a service to help organize. It would be so helpful to make one call and have all the resources in one place and a person who understands managing the process. Maybe someday that will be me! There has to be a better way to navigate the emotions, finances, possessions, and the needs of the parent.
Your parents may need help for one year or 10. You won’t know at the start. Give yourself and your family grace. I truly believe everyone shows up to do a good job every day. — Debbie Burdorf, Director of Relocation Business Development at Semonin Realtors