Ten million adult children over the age of 50 are caring for an aging parent. Many of those are also part of the sandwich generation, finding they need to provide support to an aging parent and a grown child.
Whether you’re providing for a parent financially, physically, emotionally, or all of the above, it can take its toll. Fortunately, there are strategies and resources out there that can help. Here are 11 tips for taking care of parents.
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1. Start the conversation early
You don’t want to wait till your parent needs your assistance to have the tough conversations. Start the dialogue early on and get an idea of their wants and needs for the future.
How important is it to them to stay at home? Are they set up financially for it? Is their will up-to-date? Have they designated a power of attorney? Do they have a health care directive? Make sure you have copies or at the very least know where to access all these very important legal documents.
2. Talk it out with siblings
In many instances, there will be one adult child who handles the lion’s share of care due to proximity, availability, or because they’ve been legally designated to do so. That can be a lot of weight for one person to carry. Discuss ways all siblings can pitch in to assist when the time comes and how you’re going to handle the day-to-day and big decisions together.
3. Take a financial inventory
Be aware of all the accounts your parent has and any sources of income. Have contact information for their financial advisors or accountants. Come up with a plan for how expenses and bills will be handled if you become responsible for their care. If you’re eventually paying for more than half of their expenses (health care, rent, groceries, etc.), you may be able to claim them as a dependent on your taxes.
4. Find resources to help
Use the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging directory to find resources in your area. Resources include everything from transportation to meal delivery, health insurance counseling to medication management.
5. Check for benefit programs
This tool from the National Council on Aging ask a few questions to determine if there are benefit programs than can help pay for medications, health care, food, utilities, and more.
6. Veteran benefits
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Veterans and their spouses may be eligible for a wide range of benefits including caregiver support. Coverage depends on income and assets. Start your search at the Department of Veterans Affairs Caregiver Support website.
Community centers, senior centers, and churches often have social hours or activities geared for senior socialization. Finding social opportunities for your aging parent is good for everyone’s mental health.
8. Community transportation services
It’s always tough when a senior has to stop driving. Not only is it hard giving up that independence, but it often puts the burden on the child to get groceries, take them to appointments, and drive them to family parties. Fortunately, there are services that can help like the National Center on Senior Transportation where you can find a ride for your parent.
9. Find a companion
The Senior Companions program consists of volunteers ages 55 and older who provide assistance and friendship to adults who wish to remain independent in their homes. They serve 15-40 hours per week giving caregivers a break and seniors a much-needed friend.
10. Assess living arrangements
Don’t wait for an accident to happen before you make the home your parent is living in safe. Consider installing grab bars in the shower, raised toilet seats, no-slip strips to steps, and eliminating tripping hazards like area rugs.
If your parent lives in a multilevel home, consider how you can make it accessible or create an adequate downstairs-only living space for them when they’re no longer able to get up the stairs.
11. Sign up for support groups
Caregivers need emotional support, too. Look for support groups offered through hospitals. If your loved one is dealing with a particular disease, you can often find support groups that specialize in that unique care.