Caring for parents at the same time as you care for your children, your spouse, and your job can be challenging! However, with some planning you can turn a potentially exhausting time into a REWARDING EXPERIENCE for you and your family.
The following list contains some helpful tips for multi-generation caregivers.
Talk with your parents about their future. Unless your parents are no longer capable of making decisions for themselves, it is very important to have an open and honest discussion about their health, finances, and who they wish to make financial and health decisions for them (their “agents”), should they no longer be able to take care of such matters themselves. Be certain to talk about the short and long term future when constructing an overall plan for their health and financial well-being. It is important for you, and other family members, to also express whether you can or cannot take on such responsibilities.
Hold an all-family meeting regarding your parents. Involve your parents, and your own siblings in a detailed conversation about the present and future. Discuss what your parents’ wishes are, and make a team plan to insure that everyone understands their role as either a health care agent, or financial agent, should your parents need you to take over managing their daily affairs.
Have a discussion with your children and your parents. If you are physically or financially taking care of your parents, talk about this honestly with your children, in an age-appropriate manner. Help them to understand the changes that your children will experience, both positive and challenging – especially if your parents will be moving into your home.
Set up meetings with your parents’ and their estate planning attorney, financial planner, and doctors. Their estate planning attorney can help your parents, and you, insure that their documents are in order, and their wishes and agents are clearly named. Their financial planner can work with your parents, you, and your estate planning attorney to create a financial plan that best meets your parents’ goals, and financial needs, for their continued well-being. In addition, meeting with your parents and their doctors can help you understand what kind of care they may need now, or in the future.
Make a financial plan for yourself. Are your children headed to college? How does your retirement fund look? What additional expenses might you incur now that you are caring for your parents? Your financial plan should be revised as your life changes. Don’t leave yourself and your spouse out of the equation. Make sure to set aside some funds for your own retirement while saving for college and elder health care.
Revise your estate plan documents as necessary. If you had named your parents guardians of your children in case of your death, you may need to find other guardians. You may need to set up trusts for your parents as well as for your children. If your parent was your power of attorney, you may have to designate a different person to act on your behalf.
Make family plans. There are joys associated with having three generations under one roof. Make the effort to get everyone together for outings and meals. One idea: Have each generation choose an outing once a month.
Prioritize privacy. With multiple family members living under one roof, privacy – for children, parents, and grandparents – is a must. If it is not be feasible for every family member to have his or her own room, then find other ways to give everyone some guaranteed privacy. “The living room is just for Grandma and Grandpa after dinner.” “Our teenage daughter gets the downstairs bathroom for as long as she needs in the mornings.”
Seek out and accept help. Help for the elderly is well organized in the United States. Here are a few governmental and nonprofit resources:
- www.hopehealthco.org – Hope Health provides specialized services throughout Eastern Massachusetts for over thirty years. Their areas of expertise include such things as: Hospice Care, Palliative Care, Primary Care, Pediatric Care, Counseling and Support, Dementia & Alzheimer’s Services, and more.
- www.escci.org – Elder Services of Cape Cod and the Islands, Inc. (ESCCI) is a private, not-for-profit community-based organization dedicated to serving older adults in the twenty-two towns of Barnstable, Dukes, and Nantucket counties. They offer a wide range of programs and services including: Information and Referral services, Home Care programs, Senior Nutrition programs, Long Term Care Screenings, Options Counseling, Protective Services, Family Caregiver Support Programs, and other comprehensive services.
- www.benefitscheckup.org – Hosted by the National Council on Aging, this website is a one-stop shop for determining which federal, state and local benefits your parents may qualify for
- www.eldercare.gov – Sponsored by the U.S. Administration on Aging
- www.caremanager.org – National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers
- www.nadsa.org – National Adult Day Services Association
As you prepare for the changes, make sure to prioritize time to nurture your own well-being too. Caring for yourself increases your ability to care for others, and allow you to reap the benefits of a multi-generational household.