There are nine conversations that you inevitably have to have with your parents or senior adults for whom you will be responsible. The sooner you begin the conversations with your parents the better.
• Driving. While my parents are still capable of driving, we have had the conversation of what happens when they cannot drive. We have already discussed the need to hire a driver 2 to 3 days a week when they no longer drive on their own. I have shared with them that a time will come when I say, “No, you cannot drive anymore.” Because we have had the conversation, it will be easier to make that decision.
• Primary Care Physicians. Most seniors have several “ologists,” cardiologists, rheumatologists, oncologists, etc. Many do not even have a primary care doctor. Make sure Mom or Dad is seeing a physician who has experience working with the senior population.
• Medication. Someone should be aware of all the medications that a senior takes. It is important to have the conversation with your parents about over-the-counter and prescription drugs they are taking. Have them add you to the list of people who can talk to the pharmacist about their medications.
• Diet & Nutrition. Talk to your parent about what they had for lunch and supper. Check the refrigerator whenever you get a chance. An occasional, “I’m kind of hungry, what do you have to eat?” peek in the refrigerator can provide you with clues. Have a clean-out each week, casually making a list of things to replace and throwing away food that could cause them harm.
• Cleanliness & Hygiene. The cleanliness of a person and his or her surroundings can have a greater impact on health than any other single factor. If deemed necessary, a cleaning service should be arranged, or family members can set up schedules to “help” with cleaning.
• Personal Emergency Device. No one living alone after the age of 65 should be without a wrist or necklace pendent emergency call system. Anyone can fall at any time, but those over the age of 65 will take longer to recover. Recovery is quicker if the person is found and treated in a relatively short period of time.
• Living Options. Where will they live when they can no longer live at home alone? “Promise me you will never put me in one of those homes.” That language should not be allowed in conversations. What most parents fail to consider when making such a declaration is that they are asking their children to give up their entire lives in an effort to coordinate their household. At some point, you must say, “It is time for you to move; I can no longer care for you at home.”
• Financial. Someone must know the financial conditions of the senior(s). If they do not feel comfortable sharing the information with their children, they should retain an accountant or attorney who will be responsible for paying bills and assuring the resources for their care. Nursing homes cost around $200 per day. Home care is usually more expensive.
• Health Insurance. You should be aware of health insurance coverage, as well as Medicare Parts A, B, C and D. Yes, there is a Part C; however, very few people qualify for it. Many seniors have not signed up for Part D for pharmacy and could save thousands of dollars each year by getting in on the best program. Have your parents signed up for a Medicare HMO? A Medicare HMO can actually increase their out of pocket expenses. Medicare does not pay for long-term care.