Caring for an Ill or Elderly Parent

 This month we are going to cover the subject of caring for our elderly parents.   Whether your elderly parent suffers from illness or if they are just getting older and need assistance, these steps will help you organize and care for them. This newsletter will cover what documents you will need and what types of assistance may be necessary. Communicating with your loved one is the first thing you need to do and our previous newsletter covered that topic.

As we age sometimes illness and disability can come without warning. Alzheimer’s and dementia are mental illnesses that many elder adults suffer from and the onset can be sudden and rapid. These illnesses require a special type of assistance.

An elderly loved one may suffer from a fall or accident that disables them physically. This type of disability will require a different type of assistance for your loved one. It is important to know the variety of options available depending on your situation.

Hopefully this will help as a starting point for organizing your thoughts, and you can begin building a network of professionals in the financial and medical fields.

The first thing you must consider is your loved ones need for financial assistance. Discuss obtaining a Power of Attorney. This legal document enables you to make legally binding decisions on your loved ones behalf.   You will have access to bank accounts and financial records.   The person granting you power of attorney must do so in writing.   Find a good Estate Planning attorney to help with this.

If your loved one is unable to grant you power of attorney, an alternative option is getting a conservatorship over your loved one.   This is a court-ordered arrangement used when someone is not able to communicate with others or sign documents. A court-designated conservator would manage the individual’s assets in a way that is in the individual’s best interest. A good Estate Planning attorney can help with this too.

Now lets discuss the type of assistance your loved one may need. Sometimes the primary goal is getting the elderly loved one back on their feet. Other times the goal is stopping a medical condition from worsening. With a power of attorney you will be able to discuss with your loved ones’ doctor the prognosis and a proper plan of action. This will help to understand what the future holds and what will need to be done.

Begin to identify the types of tasks that will need to be done. Asking for help with meals can range from weekly grocery shopping to actually feeding someone who cannot hold a utensil.

A loved one may need assistance with medicine. This task can vary too.   It could simply mean help with counting pills and putting them in marked containers once a week. But more in-depth medical assistance could mean monitoring and servicing complex medical devices like infusion pumps, and it could also mean administering injections.

These factors impact whether your elderly loved one can remain in their home. They may prefer to stay at home, but that decision may not be clear. There are other options too. You can move your loved one in with you, you can move in with them, or they can be moved to an assisted living facility or nursing home. For this newsletter we will focus on in-home care. But this topic should be discussed with your loved one, with your family, with their doctor, nurses, physical therapists and mental health care professionals.

When your loved one chooses to remain in their home make sure their home is safe and accessible. Their home may need ramps, lifts, grab bars and similar features to get around safely. Make sure to check bedrooms, bathrooms and the kitchen for these necessary features. Make sure there is enough space around furniture for a walker or a wheelchair. Rugs and loose wires can trip people who use walkers, canes or crutches. Any electronics or appliances that use remotes are a big help. Easy to use remotes for air conditioning, heat, entertainment systems and lighting can ease frustration for elderly loved ones who struggle to get around their home on their own.

Do your research. Search for professional support. Visiting nurses and home health aides can help you fill in gaps in your own caregiving efforts. Having some extra help can improve the quality of life for your loved one.

Talk to an Estate Planning attorney if you have more questions. Hornstein Law Offices has over a decade of experience in this industry and we can help. Our network also includes elder care professionals we can talk to and refer to you. 818.887.9401