How do you know if your parents need help? Sometimes it's very obvious-- and can begin with a dire medical event such as stroke or fall. For others it's a more lengthy but clear downward path that may be as a result of an early diagnosis of cognitive impairement. And for many it's not clear and we don't often recognize more subtle signs, and don't recognize that a few seemingly scattered minor events may be related and a sign that the need for assistance or at least recognition may be imminent. Such "signs" may include: an empty refridgerator, or telling a joke in poor taste (assuming this didn't occur often before), making a wrong turn while driving on a route taken daily, not appearing as well put together, being late to appointments.
No matter how you arrive, when you cross the line from "not worrying" to "worrying and being concerned," it's time to get ready and be prepared. Being able to help your parents effectively and with a minimum of stress to them AND to you necessitates that you know the answers to the following questions. So STEP 1 in this process is all about communications.... with your siblings (if available) and with your parent(s). It's time to learn what their long-term care wishes are and make a plan that best accomplishes them.
How many of the following questions can you answer YES to?
- What your parents long-term care wishes are?
- How caregiving responsibilities will be shared by family members?
- The names of their physicians and if they have permission to speak with you?
- Their medical history and current medical status?
- What medications they’re on, who prescribed them and for what?
- What medical insurance (supplement of Advantage plan) and Drug plan they have?
- If they have completed appropriate HIPAA forms, POA, and Medical Directives, and if so do you know where they are and if they're up-to-date?
- Where they have bank and other financial accounts?
- Who their Accountant, Lawyer, and Financial advisors are?
- If they have a long term care policy, or if there are any other benefits they may be entitled to?
Being prepared doesn't take away all the stresses of caring for aging parents, but it certainly makes it easier and allows you to focus on more important issues. Being ready and prepared also helps you to manage the inevitable bumps better without jumping from crisis to crisis.
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