In ages past…
In our parents' generation, decisions about elder parents seemed easier. Families were not so spread out and different generations lived in one roof when it was necessary. It was just how it was. No questions asked. Adult children of elderly parents knew what was expected and they acted accordingly. Most adult children lived near their parents.
But these days, families are spread out across a state, a nation, or even the world. What if you are the only remaining adult child and, for example, you live in Florida while your 80 year old parents reside in Oregon? If they need help, how will you know? How will you provide?
So, what can you do?
Take heart. There is hope, and a growing caudry of resources along this new journey of life.
As the baby boomers approach their 50s and 60s, those lucky enough to still have their parents alive are finding new and creative ways to help their parents manage this phase of life.
In every case, talking together about key issues mentioned earlier are critical. There is no substitute for that. In addition, it can help to create an action plan and take your parent to a lawyer or advisor to be certain that all the proper documentation is set-up, current and accurate in order to ensure their wishes will be met. Resources to achieve this are available through a local senior citizen center or city and county government social services, or through an organization such as the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). These various resources are likely to provide a list of local legal counsel who specialize in helping older people for a reduced fee or for free.
Even the most stubborn of elder parents can recognize the value of making decisions prior to a crisis, and making sure their adult children know where to find their information. You may have to bring the discussion to the forefront, but it will be recognized and acted on if you graciously insist.
The most important thing for adult child of elder parents to realize is that no matter where you live or what the situation of your parents, you are not alone! There are resources to help you every step of the way. A wide variety of local resources, from elder companions, to registered nurses, to food delivery and in-home medical and non-medical help is available immediately.
Many local churches, community senior or social services, hospitals or nonprofit groups dedicated to elders can point you in the right direction. All you need do is ask. It makes your responsibilities less overwhelming when you know there ARE answers; answers that will fit your and your parents' unique situation and needs.
Your parents are older and need help, now what? Ask for help and direction from local resources listed above, and don't sweat the small stuff along the way!