Vail Daily column: Doing the right thing is hard
I don’t know of any of my contemporaries who can tell me that the university or college they attended offered a course on aging. Thus, it is no surprise that many of us have little idea of how to best assist our aging family members.
According to the U.S. Census, there are more than 300 million Baby Boomers in the U.S. In 2015, an estimated 4 million more Baby Boomers will turn 50 years old. By 2030, it is estimated that the Boomer population will more than double.
Not just here in the U.S. but worldwide, we are ill prepared to address the needs of this population. Consequently new research, marketing, products and services are coming to fruition. Servicing the Boomer generation will create new businesses and industries, ultimately generating big dollars.
Driven by potential new revenue streams and economic development, we will meet many of the needs of our aging population. However, whether we will address the human and emotional needs of both the aging and those persons who will provide help for them remains less clear.
BECOMING A CAREGIVER
On almost a weekly basis, my office receives phone calls from the adult children (persons in their 30s to 60s) of seniors who are looking for advice and resources to aid their parents and loved ones. Many of these adult children have suddenly found themselves thrust into the role of being a caregiver. Often, when an elderly parent or loved one becomes hospitalized, diagnosed with a chronic or terminal illness or can no longer care for themselves, it is usually the children of the elderly parent who have to step in and respond.
Many of the persons reaching out to our office are looking for assistance with how to keep their aging loved ones at home and how to know when living at home is no longer a safe option. Dealing with such issues as independent and assisted living, providing daily care within the home, assisting with daily errands, driving, financial choices, health and end of life decisions are very personal and difficult topics.
TALK ABOUT THEIR PLAN
My suggestion as the first step is to find out how much your parents or loved ones have prepared for their future in terms of health, legal matters, and financial security.
Find out if they have long-term care insurance, and if not, how they plan on paying for nursing home care or in-home help if necessary. You may want to ask, given a choice, if they want to remain at home or if they would choose an independent living community. Do they have an estate plan, family trust or other means of protecting their assets?
THINGS TO CONSIDER
The following are a few topics of discussion that should be noted for both yourself and your parents:
• Is their home still appropriate for their needs?
• Can they attend to a front and/or back yard?
• Can they manage stairs both outside and inside the home?
• Can they safely cook and attend to keeping the home clean and tidy?
• Can they safely drive?
• Is there a plan in place for emergencies?
• Would a personal emergency response system be beneficial? (LifeAlert, SafetyChoice, LogicMark)?
• Is there a retirement plan?
• Determine if their living expenses fall within a sustainable budget.
• Are there funds allocated to pay for in-home care or assisted living?
• Are there established income revenue streams.
• Does a family member have both power of attorney and durable power of attorney? (They are not the same.)
• Is there a will in place and has it been updated?
• What health problems do they have?
• Is there a health insurance plan in place that is appropriate for their medical needs?
• Is there a Medicare supplement insurance plan to aid in affording prescriptions?
• To what extent will Medicare, Social Security or a pension assist?
For seniors, the recognition and acceptance of aging can be difficult. The awareness that their lifestyle may be changing can pose significant challenges.
For the adult children, it can be difficult to watch their parents age. Often, adult children feel many conflicting emotions as they struggle to assist their parents. Are they not doing enough or are they imposing? This is often a very gray area. Simultaneously, the subtleties between adult children and their parents are changing from an adult-child relationship to more of a peer-to-peer relationship.
There are no rule books to look to for specific guidance. We are trail-blazing. If you have walked this path or are currently dealing with these situations, share your stories with your friends. While the particulars may be unique to each of us and our families, the grander view of aiding our loved ones is shared by all of us.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. For more information, go to http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns or call 970-328-5526.