By 2050, almost 17% of the population will be 65 years of age or older. As medical advances enable people to live longer, more people are becoming informal caregivers, which means they’re unpaid. As of 2015, more than 34 million American adults provided informal care to individuals age 50 or over.
As your parents age, you may be responsible for providing direct care. You may also find that you need to help with specific tasks when caring for your parents. These are some common issues you may need to address.
1. Age-Related Sensory Issues
It’s common for older adults to experience hearing and vision loss. The loss of these senses can have a significant impact on their social interaction and safety.
If your parents start avoiding phone calls and stop attending social functions, this could indicate they’re having trouble hearing. Take them to an audiologist, a qualified medical doctor specializing in diagnosing and treating hearing loss. An audiologist can determine if your parents are suffering from hearing loss, and whether the loss is permanent. They’re qualified to provide them with the best hearing aids on the market. Treatment will enable your parents to hear more clearly and engage socially for years to come.
Glaucoma, macular degeneration, and cataracts are all issues that can affect the vision of older adults. An optometrist can identify medical issues that may be affecting your parents. Poor vision is a serious issue because it increases their chances of having an accident. An optometrist can refer your parent to an ophthalmologist if surgery or more extensive treatment is required.
2. Financial Needs
Many older people live on fixed incomes and have limited financial resources. Your parents may not have the financial means to cover all of their expenses, particularly if they have medical needs. Talk to your parents about how they’re paying for medical supplies and discuss options with them. They can use pharmaceutical services that bill Medicare directly, so they do not have to incur out of pocket expenses. They can also sign up for a pharmacy discount card that can help them save money on prescriptions.
Your parents may need to relocate or renovate their current residence to accommodate their needs. Your parents may need wider doorways and ramps to enter and exit the home safely if they need to use a wheelchair or walker. Their bathtub may need to be replaced with a walk-in shower to prevent falls. The handles on kitchen cupboards may need to be changed to ensure easy access since some people have difficultly turning knobs as they age.
Kitchen counters may also be too high if one of your parents is using a wheelchair. Older adults who do not need assistive devices to walk may still find it difficult to climb stairs. If your parents opt to remain in their existing home, they may need to have a stairlift installed. If your parents can’t afford to renovate, they may need to move to a home suited to their needs. Work with them to find a suitable property close to family and friends to retain their social network.
4. Legal Matters
It’s important to talk to your parents about the legal documents they need. Everyone should have a will to ensure their wishes are respected after they pass away. Their will determines who inherits their property and money. Without a will, it can take years to settle an estate.
A medical directive is a legal document that explains what care a person wishes to receive if they develop serious medical issues. A medical directive will determine whether they are put on life support if they are seriously injured. Your parents should consider their wishes and secure a medical directive. They should also appoint a healthcare power of attorney and authorize someone to make medical decisions on their behalf if they are unable to.
Your parents may also opt to choose a power of attorney to handle financial matters. They can authorize their power of attorney to pay bills and sign documents. This ensures their financial matters will be addressed if they’re injured.
5. Final Wishes
Your parents can opt to plan their funerals to ensure their wishes are respected. This can be challenging to discuss, but it can be reassuring for your parents to look after their final arrangements. Pre-planned funerals prevent grieving family members from making difficult decisions after they have passed away. It also prevents conflict if family members disagree about the final arrangements for their parents.