All too often, life circumstances get in the way of family togetherness. We get caught up with work and raising our own children, and—the next thing we know—it’s been months or years since the last time we saw our families or aging loved ones.
Fortunately, holidays, birthdays and other important milestones bring families together and create opportunities for us to reconnect. These gatherings also give us the opportunity to check in on our aging parents or loved ones and gauge their need for care or support.
Aging sets in fast. One day, your parents may be spry and peppy—and then the next time you see them, they may be experiencing trouble with strength, mobility, or memory. As soon as you begin noticing that their health is declining, it’s important to begin planning for the day when they will need more comprehensive help. Not only will you want to ensure important legal documents are in place and up-to-date, but if your aging loved ones don’t carry long-term care insurance, you will want to begin taking steps to protect their assets if they—like 70% of seniors—end up needing nursing home care.
The next time you visit with your family, watch out for these 5 signs that your aging parents need more care:
Physical changes. Your aging loved ones are experiencing physical changes or challenges. For example, if you give your mother a hug and she feels thin and frail, or dad seems to have trouble getting in and out of his chair.
Stacks of unopened mail. Look for unopened mail or unpaid bills sitting around the house. This can be a sign of forgetfulness, or even early onset dementia.
Driving skills. If you are able to get out for a drive with your aging loved ones, take notice of their reaction times on the road. Make note if they seem nervous or distracted, or even if there are new dents and scratches on the car.
Stocked kitchen cabinets. Run through their refrigerator and cabinets and make sure there are plenty of healthy foods, and fresh fruits and vegetables. If you notice that items they usually have on-hand are missing, it could be an indication that they are becoming more forgetful, or that they are unable to cook the way they used to.
More mess than usual. Is their house in disarray? If you notice a build up of clutter or grime, or notice that plants or pets aren’t being properly cared for, it could be a sign of waning mobility or memory loss.
If you notice any of these 5 signs the next time you’re home with your aging parents or loved ones, the first thing you should do—of course—is ask how you can help.
You should also spark up a conversation about whether they have certain estate planning documents in place, especially an advanced directive for healthcare, a living will, and a durable power of attorney. It’s crucial that these documents are in place and up to date while your parents still have full cognitive function. This will ensure that you have everything you need to step into a caregiver role if the time comes.
You may also want to begin a conversation about long-term care planning. Remember that Medicaid has a 5-year lookback period, and that the majority of seniors will require long-term care at some point. Preparing for these costs as early as possible is your best bet.
The Hailey-Petty Law Firm is here to help you and your family navigate these matters and more. Schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation with any of our estate planning attorneys to discuss your present and future needs, or download our free guide to estate planning for the sandwich generation. Our free guide includes useful conversation starters and a healthcare quiz to help you and your aging loved ones understand the importance of having a legally-binding plan in place for the future.