Assessing the Needs of an Aging Parent

Planning for the future needs of an aging parent can often be a sensitive and delicate task for adult children to undertake. Baby boomers who must balance the needs of their own children with concerns about their parent’s well-being have become known as members of the “sandwich generation,” as they struggle to provide multigenerational care and support. The amount of stress that comes with stretching oneself too thin is supported by today’s culture, which seems to revere the notion of “superman” and “superwoman.” Luckily, providing care for an aging parent or another loved one does not have to be a task that you face alone.

Although the topic may be difficult to broach, many are surprised to discover that talking with parents about their needs often opens doors of communication and strengthens familial bonds. One way to do this is through an assessment that takes a thorough look at the physical, mental, environmental, social, and financial situation of your loved one. A thorough assessment can reveal areas of concern and prompt you to develop strategies that help ensure that risks are lessened and independence is maintained for as long as possible. You can perform an assessment by yourself or enlist the aid of a professional who can help provide solutions for any situation that might arise.

Consider the following questions and their relevance to your aging parent’s needs:

Health

  1. Does your parent suffer from any chronic diseases or illnesses?

  2. Does your parent experience incontinence, weight fluctuations, bone fractures, unsteadiness, dental problems, or other irregularities?

  3. Can you provide a list of doctors and other medical professionals your parent visits?

Prescriptions

  1. Do you have a list of your parent’s medications and dosage amounts?

  2. Does your parent take medicines as directed?

Psychological

  1. Has your parent ever been diagnosed with any of the following conditions: depression, anxiety, Alzheimer’s disease, or dementia?

  2. Does your parent show signs of mood swings, forgetfulness, confusion, or depression?

  3. Does your parent appear to have a decreased interest in things that once captivated him or her, such as friendships or recreational activities?

Lifestyle

  1. With what level of ease does your parent move about the house? Does he or she need walkers, canes, or other special devices, such as bathroom grab bars?

  2. How many of the following activities can your parent perform independently: bathing, dressing, communicating by telephone, walking, climbing stairs, cooking, cleaning, and driving?

  3. If your parent has pets, is he or she able to give them the level of care they require?

Safety Issues

  1. Is the neighborhood secure, and does the home contain safety features such as smoke alarms, grab bars, and non-slip flooring?

  2. Can your parent perform the necessary maintenance on the home and yard?

  3. Does your parent know how to protect him- or herself from predatory scams and fraud?

Social

  1. Is the contact information of friends and family members easily accessible?

  2. Does your parent interact with friends or have social contact on a regular basis?

  3. Is your parent close to family members whom he or she sees often?

Hygiene

  1. Has your parent’s level of personal hygiene remained the same? Does he or she need help with routine tasks such as washing, shaving, or hair and teeth brushing?

  2. Are clothes appropriate and clean?

Money

  1. Is your parent able to pay the bills and maintain good financial health?

  2. Does your parent have, and can he or she locate, legal documents such as wills, powers of attorney, etc.?

  3. Do you know where to find important information about insurance and financial accounts?

You may wish to expand upon this partial list or speak with a professional about areas of particular concern. In many cases, an individual may require more assistance in one area than another.

Boomers who are struggling to meet the demands of older and younger generations may find that outside help is necessary. Proper planning can help smooth the necessary transitions, both financially and emotionally. For many families, long-term care insurance can provide a measure of support. Policies provide a benefit that can be used to pay expenses for varying levels of care, helping to ensure that both medical and financial needs are met. Preparing today can help you provide for your family’s needs tomorrow.