ife really does come full circle. As babies, we are totally dependent on our parents. Before long, we pull away and seek our own independence. For whatever reason, between ages 13 and 20, our parents seem to go through a significant decline in knowledge about life (or so we think). As some attribute to Mark Twain musing about his dad, “But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.” Then, we often get closer to our parents as we start our families.
At some point, though, mom and dad start asking for or requiring some help. At first, it may not seem like much, but eventually mom and dad really begin to need some assistance. This does not happen overnight, but over time. There are several things to be mindful of as mom and dad start to age.
Love, Support & Respect
It can be difficult to see our parents get older. It is certainly difficult for them. The place to start is with your love for each other and to be there for them to help meet their needs. There are times when they do not want our help, even if that is not the best choice. If their safety is not at risk, be respectful of their independence and wishes.
Listen & Be Patient
How many kids do not listen to their parents? How often are kids and parents not patient with each other? These questions are, of course, rhetorical. A lack of listening and patience can be constant, even as the kids become adults. Now that we are adults, it is essential to be more conscious to listen to what our parents are saying or not saying about their needs.
Are they asking for more help? Are they forgetting things too often? It can be difficult to stay calm when managing our lives, but it is imperative to step back and be more patient with aging parents. Even when they should make a change, they may not be ready. Suggest something, plant the seed, and come back to it another time.
Make Technology Easier
Technology can be intimidating. There is more and more technology, and technological tools continue to get smaller and faster. Larger fonts on the phone and computer, timers for lights and fewer remote controls are just some ways to simplify technology for our parents.
Develop an Understanding of Health Concerns
Learn their medical conditions and medications they take. Go to their doctor’s appointments or at least have the names and phone numbers of all their doctors.
Find out their pharmacy. Ask doctors questions. If one is not in place, make sure mom and dad have a health care proxy or power of attorney so that there is no question about who can discuss your parents’ health care with providers. This is even more important if there is any family strife between siblings.
Check the House for Safety
Take a look around their home for safety hazards. They can be everywhere—leading to trips, falls, and injuries. Fall prevention goes a long way to keeping your parent independent for as long as possible.
There are several things to consider to keep mom and dad’s house safe: clear floors and walkways of clutter, add grab bars in the bathroom and next to stair railings, update lights to increase brightness and make sure appliances work well and are within easy reach to reduce the need to use step stools or bend down to get items.
Attend to Estate Planning and Financial Needs
The cost of health care and attending to the needs of seniors is ever rising. Gain an understanding of mom and dad’s finances to help them plan for the future. It is very important to engage in fundamental estate planning. At a minimum, this usually involves preparing a last will and testament, financial and health care powers of attorney. An elder law attorney can provide guidance about the right estate planning techniques for their given situation.
A good financial advisor can also be very helpful to ensure that their money is invested wisely. Also, senior care planners can help coordinate services Mom and Dad may need.
Check on Them Regularly
This can be tough as we manage our jobs and family, but it is important to check in often. Whether a visit, phone, call, or text, it may well make their day to hear from their busy kids. Siblings can create a schedule to check in with parents. If that is not possible, ask a neighbor or family friend to check in on them.
While it is difficult to see mom and dad age, fortunately there are some great resources that offer an incredible amount of help. Check out the following websites for valuable information and other forms of guidance: