By Guest Blogger Kristen Daukas of kristendaukas.com
As our parents grow older, and as adult children, we may be faced with decisions about their care and living arrangements. This can be overwhelming, and you may be wrought with anxiety over making the best decision. Should they go into assisted living? Stay in their own homes with extra care from the outside? Or should you move them in with your family? If you’re considering the latter, I have a few lessons learned that may help make the transition easier for everyone.
It was almost two years ago to the day that I moved my dad up from Texas to live with me. I figured that not only would it be nice to have another adult in the house, but he and the girls would also finally have the chance to get to really know each other. Having raised three daughters, I figured adding a 71-year-old in with us would be a piece of cake. It was until it wasn’t.
Unlike my mom who is in extremely great health and very active, my dad had quite a few health issues such as COPD and AFib that required constant attention. He did a great job in the beginning of taking care of all the medications, home visits, and trips to the VA clinic; however, when his conditions began to decline, a lot of that fell on me. I am many things, but a health professional is not one of them. So if the parent that you’re moving in with you has health issues, be prepared to attend a lot of doctor visits with them. It is also a good idea to make sure that you are listed in their files as having permission to discuss their health with their health care provider. There were times that I needed to call Dad’s doctor when his health was on the decline as he was unable.
Along those lines, if you haven’t reviewed your parent’s last wishes and know where all their important documents are located, this is something you want to do while they’re in good health. One of the first things my dad and I did when he moved in was to have several conversations about these things. He had already planned (and paid for ahead of time) to be cremated and he night he passed away I was able to immediately go to his files in order to get the paperwork that had already been drawn up. Experiencing a parent’s death is devastating enough without having to worry about the details of what to do next.
Having passwords to their bank and credit card accounts is also helpful. My dad had a spiral binder with all of his written in them which I had to access several times both while he was living and then after he passed away. I highly recommend that you are listed as an executor for both their health and their finances. We had the paperwork filled out for the financial executor but we were never able to get it notarized due to him not being able to leave the house because of his health issues. Not being the “official” executor of his estate meant that I had to jump through a lot more hoops in order to gain access to his bank account.
If they have mobility issues, more than likely you’ll need to modify your home to accommodate them. Are the doorways wide enough for a wheelchair or walker to get thru easily and safely? What about the stairs both inside and outside? I ended up installing a stair lifter into my house so that Dad could get up and down the stairs, as well as removing all area rugs as the posed a fall risk to him. Things that seem ordinary to you can cause potential harm to someone who is frail. Towards the end, if I needed to travel with my girls, I would bring someone in to stay with him while we were gone to make sure he would be safe after he suffered a fall while we were gone on a previous trip.
Having your parent(s) live with you is a gift of time that you may not otherwise have gotten but it’s not without a lot of details and to some extent, some challenges for you and your family and comes with a lot of soul-searching on if it will be in the best interest of all involved. I’m glad that I did it, but wished that I had locked down a lot of the details I listed above before we threw the “Welcome Home” party.
Have you been, or are you currently, in this situation? Let us know if you have additional advice to share with other readers!
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