Organizing your aging parents

There comes a time in all of our lives when the roles reverse. Suddenly, we are no longer the child and the parenting skills we’ve so carefully honed with our own kids now need to be turned toward our aging parents. It can be one of the most emotionally trying times of your life, especially if you don’t know how your parents feel about certain issues. Unfortunately, too many people wait until it is too late to sit down and have a discussion to learn their needs and wishes. Don’t wait for an emergency just because you feel uncomfortable discussing topics like finances, wills, and funerals. Nobody ever wants to watch their parents age, but if you have everything buttoned up ahead of time, it can ease some of the stress.

Alicia on “caring for an older parent”

“My Dad died 15 years ago and my Mom is almost 90 now. I’m the baby of the family by many years, so I’m seeing my mom age well before my friends are experiencing it. I’ve learned that it’s never easy, but having everything at our fingertips is vital. My Mom, who has dementia, just broke her hip a few months ago. It’s stressful when something like that happens and you’re worrying about their care and recovery. My sisters and I put together her living will and power of attorney documents years ago, before the dementia set in. We’ve also compiled all of her medical and insurance information and all three of us have it at the ready. I can’t imagine not having it all together. It would just make things that much worse. Now, when emergencies arise, we can focus on her care and comfort instead of scurrying around for paperwork.”

Even if you do nothing else, complete the first three tasks and keep the documents and information in one spot (Life.Doc or Medical.Doc binders are available at and get organized:

1. Legal:

In addition to a standard will, have a lawyer draw up a durable power of attorney, which allows you to make financial decisions on behalf of your parents. Additionally, each parent needs a health care directive, also known as a living will, that spells our their individual wishes for medical care.

2. Medical.

Everybody should have a family history, but in addition to that information, keep a detailed list of all of the medications your parent is taking. In addition to the reason and the drug’s name, be sure to include dosage amounts. Additionally, keep a list of doctor’s names and contact numbers, since many elderly patients are under the care of several doctors and specialists at once.

3. Insurance.

In addition to your parent’s Medicare policy number and 800 information number, be sure to keep any information on supplemental or secondary insurance, as well as long term heath coverage, if they have it.

4. Finances.

It’s always advisable to discuss finances with your parents to learn more about their situation. Will they require financial assistance from you or will you need to know how they want their estate distributed? While a will can tell you how it will be divided, if you have a record of all of their accounts and policies, account numbers, and contact information, it can save you a lot of time and frustration later.

5. Coordinate Care.

Will your parents live at home, require live-in assistance, or opt for assisted living? Either way, aging parents require a lot of help. Whether it’s picking up their groceries or taking them to doctor’s appointments, their needs can be overwhelming for one person alone. Create a spreadsheet with various tasks and divide the work among various family members or friends.