A "What Not to Do" Checklist for Aging Parents
We give a lot of advice on how families can get organized to be prepared for eldercare challenges, tips for aging wisely and helpful resources such as checklists for aging parents' care. On the flip side, we see a lot of what goes wrong. No family faces the same path, and you may encounter various stumbling blocks on your eldercare journey--no matter how well you feel prepared. But, there are some common mistakes we see (i.e. things you can ignore if you want to be sure to hit some major stumbling blocks).
Here's our aging parent checklist of 5 eldercare "don'ts" for families (and the things you can do to help make the path of eldercare smoother):
1. Ignore family riffs and the potential repercussions. You have the one brother who has been estranged, the sister who has constant problems, or no one gets along with Mom's new husband--whatever iteration of family conflict you face, ignoring it is not going to help. How you deal with it may vary, though. You may be able to address some of the issues head on or seek counseling or mediation, or you may just need to be as prepared as possible for future conflict. This means sharing these dynamics honestly with the professionals you trust, so they can advise you on the best ways to prepare. We have worked with many families in conflict, who have managed to deal with eldercare issues somewhat smoothly (and keep most of the focus on the elder versus the conflict) with the help of professionals.
2. Use the internet as your only source of information. Is this an ironic thing to mention on a blog? As much as we write about eldercare and provide online resources, we think of it as an important starting point and ongoing way to stay apprised of relevant eldercare issues. We don't think of it as a substitute for personalized, expert advice. Just like the helpful advice of friends, you have to 1. know the source of the information and 2. realize it is general information and can never replace a medical diagnosis, legal advice, or professional recommendations.
3. Use online forms for essential legal documents or ignore completing them all together. This is one of those cases where professional advice makes sense...and is often much more cost-effective than people think, especially when you consider the costs of not having it done or done right. Also, make sure to touch base with your legal professional about when you may need to have documents updated (for example, we wrote an article explaining that Florida had changed its Power of Attorney statute in the last couple years and residents should ask their attorney about whether they should update accordingly).
4. Focus solely on price. This is especially true because many times people aren't doing an "apples to apples" price comparison, taking in to account all variables. For example, you might be able to hire a college student to live in and take care of Mom for only room and board which is so much cheaper than hiring an agency at an hourly rate. But, have you considered worker's comp. issues, liability, supervision and backup, etc? Talk to other caregivers and professionals about services and assistance to understand pros and cons. Get an idea of where money is wisely spent versus better saved. Find out what resources can help or what assistance is available if you are concerns about finances.
5. Assume you'll be able to easily access the information you need (even if you have the decision making/legal documents above). In addition to planning with your attorney, you should work together with your loved one to cover some key points in case you have to step in during a crisis. Where does Dad keep important papers? Who are key contacts, such as doctors, attorney, financial advisor (and an introduction meeting and/or completing specific paperwork with them for information access can help)? What about accessing electonic information? As more of our lives are moved online, you may encounter major delays trying to access accounts, pay bills and more. Do you have access to electronic account and password information should that be needed? (We will talk more in a future article about some different options for doing this...as privacy and fraud are also big concerns, so it's important to balance security and access.)
To be prepared for various stages of elder caregiving, we offer an "Essential Checklist for Aging Parents" to guide you: