Caring for Aging Parents


Many of us are facing the challenges of caring for a parent.  This can be somewhat daunting particularly if we are still meeting the needs of our immediate family.  It can also be challenging if the person who needs care is having difficulty facing some of the changes they are experiencing.  Often, a parent doesn’t want to discuss some of the issues that are necessary for their care.  If these issues are addressed early, it can help ease the transition.

Let’s Talk:

The first step you need to take is talking to your parents.  Find out what their needs and wishes

  • Long-term care insurance: Do they have it? If not, should they buy it?
  • Living arrangements: Can they still live alone, or is it time to explore other options?
  • Medical care decision: What are their wishes, and who will carry them out:
  • Estate planning: Do they have all the necessary document (e.g. wills, trusts)?
  • Expectations: What do you expect from your parents and what do they expect from you?

Preparing a personal data record

Once you’ve opened the lines of communication, your next step is to prepare a personal data record.  This document lists information that you might need in case your parents become incapacitated or die.  Here’s some information that should be included:

  • Financial information: Bank accounts, investment accounts real estate holdings
  • Legal information: Wills, durable powers of attorney, health-care directives
  • Medical information: Health-care providers, medication, medical history
  • Insurance information: Policy numbers, company names
  • Advisor information: Names and phone numbers of any professional service providers
  • Location of other important records: Keys to safe-deposit boxes, real estate deeds

As you collect this information, you may notice some gaps.  Your legal advisor can help you plan for your parents’ incapacity by preparing powers of attorney, medical directives and living wills.

Having the medical and insurance information available can help in an emergency situation or if your parent has trouble keeping track of that information.

Be sure to write down the location of documents and any relevant account numbers.  It’s a good idea to make copies of all the documents you’ve gathered and keep them in a safe place.  This is especially important if you live far away, because you’ll want the information readily available in the event of an emergency

It is also a good idea to develop a relationship with a parent’s advisor and to understand their financial situation.  Making sure that your parents won’t outlive their money is a critical step in ensuring that your own finances will remain sound.  In particular, you’ll need to make sure that your parent is receiving all the benefits to which he or she is entitled and that his or her money is invested wisely.  You’ll also need to create a financial profile for your parents, a statement that includes income, expenses, and net worth.  If after considering your parent’s financial condition, it is clear that they won’t have enough resources to pay for their own care, you’ll need to find ways to supplement their income.  You may need to look at Supplemental Security Income (SSI), for instance, or ask other relatives for help.  You’ll also have to determine how much financial support you can give your parents.

Housing and Health Care Advice

If your parent are like many older individuals, where they live will depend upon how healthy they are.  As your parents grow older, their health may deteriorate so much that they can no longer live on their own.  At this point, you may need to find them in-home health-care or health care within a retirement community or nursing home.  On the other hand, you may want them to move in with you.  In addition, you will need information on managing the cost of health care, long-term care insurance, major medical insurance, Medicare and Medicaid.

The following are helpful resources:

  • National Association for Home Care
  • Visiting Nurse Associations of America
  • Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
  • American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging
  • American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)
  • Health Insurance Association of America
  • The Alzheimer’s Association

Get Support and Advice

Don’t try to care for your parents along.  Many local and national caregiver support groups and community services are available to help you cope with caring for your aging parents.  If you don’t know where to find help, contact your state’s department of eldercare services.  Or, call (800)677-1116 to reach the Eldercare Locator, an information and referral service sponsored by the federal government that can direct you to resources available nationally or in your area.   Some of the services available in your community may include:

  • Caregiver support groups and training
  • Adult day care
  • Respite care
  • Guidelines on how to choose a nursing home
  • Free or low-cost legal advice

When you are caring for your aging parents, you may feel guilty or even resentful because you don’t have limitless energy.  Taking care of your parents is hard work.  Be sure to utilize the resources available to you and ask for help when you need it.


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