Caring for your aging parents creates an emotional and financial strain for many caregivers. Have you ever thought to yourself, when did my hero start to need help to pay her bills? Whether you live a few hundred miles away in another state or even across town, there is a price to pay. So what can you do to make this easier for everyone? First, gather everyone together in person or virtually and listen. Hidden agendas or biases can pop up when you least expect them. ” Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.” -R. Taverner
Build Your Virtual Support System
Start by assessing who your parents interact with today. For many, COVID has changed the people in our circles, making this a great time to re-assess what is happening now. You should also consider changes brought on by isolation. Did you know that lack of companionship is worse than smoking fifteen cigarettes a day? In my course, The Playbook For Aging Parents, we dedicate an entire module to The Circles of Care. It takes you through a step-by-step process to break down and build a support system.
Maintain Accurate Records
Information gathering may require an in-person visit. Be mindful your parents may not be willing to share. Decide who is the best person is to have this conversation with your parents. It must go well from the get-go, or you will struggle to get their cooperation. Record keeping may seem like something you can put on the back burner, but in case of emergencies, it will prove invaluable. You want to gather contact information from neighbors, physicians, lawyers, dentists, insurance information, including proof of insurance, so creating a list will be helpful. See our blog post Organizing Your Parents Paperwork, for all the details!
Divide and Conqueror
Suppose multiple family members support your parents, schedule visits throughout the year. Be strategic about who does what when. We all bring different strengths to the table. For example, one sibling might be more medically inclined, and one may be more familiar with the organization and household management side of things. The same goes for phone calls and ongoing communication. Set up times, so one person does not feel the burden of making all the calls. It is also helpful to agree upon a system to share information. There are several online calendars apps such as Google docs or Cozi.
Planning Your Visits
Once you have agreed upon your visit, you will also need to create a plan on what you need to accomplish. I can’t tell you how much I wish I had made more time to be a daughter and not a caregiver. For me, that would be my number one. We can’t make more time. You will also need to assess what is happening in the home. Health and safety are the top priorities. As people age, their preferences may change. Pause before speaking, and be mindful when judgment sets in. It is easy to fall back to communication patterns from the past. Remember, we all want to be heard!