Have you considered how you would handle a sudden change in your parents health, such as a loss of their mobility due to an accident, stroke, or the dreaded words – “I’m sorry your mother has…” If you were chosen, or find yourself selected suddenly, do you have the authority to take action?
You may need to have a court-appointed guardian or conservator. To be prepared they would have a Financial Power of Attorney and Health Care Power of Attorney in place. Have you considered the steps you need to take to be positioned to have the necessary authority you will need commensurate with the responsibility you have agreed to accept? Often reaching these understandings can be more difficult to reach within a family, because of different views, or opportunities to help or distance can prohibit you from doing what you want to do to care for your loved one.
Here are a few ideas on how to prepare for such a call to care for a needy parent or loved one.
1. Identify and Prioritize the Needs – Make a list of everything you can think of that would need to be done. Prioritize the list according to an orderly sequence of proceeding, along the lines of what needs to be done now and what can wait. Focus on needs, not wants. What needs to be done with you on the scene and what tasks would not require your presence. Safety is the key and should always be paramount.
2. Maintain independence – We all want to maintain our independence. An aging parent will have a hard time giving up their independence. Speak to them in advance, assure them that your priority will be to honor their desire to maintain their independence, FIRST. If your parent sees you are trying maintain their independence, generally you will find less resistance. Safe and independent is the noble goal, and easier said than done.
3. Get organized – Once you understand their needs, then write them down in a prioritized manner, from highest to lowest priority with your proposed solution if you know it (and leave it blank if you don’t) and the steps you need to take in order to work toward that solution.
4. What resources are available – You can add to your list the resources that are available, whether in the form of money or helpers. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, such as County social services or a veteran organization.
5. Make a plan – Take a look at that prioritized list. If there are lots of blanks, your first step is to begin to fill them in so that you can create a plan. If the list is pretty well populated, now is the time to figure out how you might be able to divide and conquer.
6. Build a team for now and later – Identify family, friends, neighbors, volunteers along with other trusted advisors and professionals who will help you execute your plan. If you don’t know these people, network and find them. Once you know who they are, make a comprehensive list with names, contact information and notes regarding who is available to do what.
7. Communicate – with both your parents and your siblings – Don’t do any of this in a vacuum. It is imperative to include both your parents (assuming they are able to participate) and your siblings in the process of developing the plan. The more inclusive you can be, the less likely you will later face roadblocks.
8. Execute your plan! – While each of these steps can seem overwhelming, if you try to tackle them one at a time in logical order it will be much less so. You may find that you need to do a “deep dive” into one of the steps; if that’s the case, try to assess whether you should stop everything to do so or whether you should simply put that step in the “parking lot” and come back to it after you have moved through the others. Finally, remember that any plans you make and implement will need to be revisited from time to time as your parents’ or loved ones’ needs or resources change.