Thinking about it.

My parents are in good health right now. I’ve watched them care for my grandparents and know it will be my turn next. 

Have you thought about what will happen when your parents need help with their own life care? 

In watching them care for others, or even pitching in yourself to help, you might have asked yourself one or more of the following questions.

  • What will happen when I have to help my parents?
  • Am I prepared, emotionally, and financially for emergencies that might happen?
  • Will I be physically able to help them?
  • What if it becomes a time burden on me and my career?
  • How will their needs impact my personal relationships?
  • How will I share the work with my family?
  • Will my own family help me?  Will they even try or want to?
  • What if my parents don’t want my help?  

Some or all of the above may have gone through your mind at some point.  Especially if you’ve seen friends or other family members working to help an older loved one.  Caring for your aging parents can be overwhelming. However, with the right planning and support, you and your family can find ways to work together and help your parents maintain their independence and quality of life. 

Here are three primary things to keep in mind:

Know what your own personal goals are in life first. 

This is important to know, years before your parents will need you.  Doing so will make the eventual road ahead a lot easier.  It’s not selfish to think about how caring for your aging parents will impact your own life, family, career, and even personal goals like travel. Your parents don’t want you to put your life on hold for them so now’s the time to at least start thinking about the “what ifs.” 

Start with a simple list.  Jot down your thoughts to start the process. Your questions and thoughts will better prepare you should there be an unplanned disruption in your own life. 

Here are a few questions to get you going:

  • How will my parent’s life care impact my plans to start a family?
  • What if I’ve just started a new job or received a promotion?  How will I “keep it all together.”?
  • Is my spouse or partner going to be able to give me the support I might need?
  • How will I work together with family members (if I have any)?
  • If left to my own on this path, how will I manage?
  • What if I live far away, how will I be able to help them?  
  • Do I know what they want?  
  • What’s my financial strength, should they need additional monetary support?  
  • Am I emotionally strong enough, right now, to step in if needed?

It’s important to consider how life events might impact our own lives, even if it’s only a little bit of time. 

Now’s also the time to have honest conversations with your family members about their own personal goals and how they might (or might not) want or be able to help with your parents’ care.  This is especially important if you’re the oldest, as many parents tend to designate POA authority to their oldest child. 

Hint:  you don’t have to get everything perfect. Things change, as time and your own situation might too.  The key to this first aspect is to think about your own needs, and how they’ll fall into place when your parents need help.  This includes at least trying to understand your family members’ baseline perspectives on this topic too.  

This is just the beginning phase of where your journey should start.  Caring for aging parents requires careful planning and consideration. It also means you must seriously consider your own needs: personal, emotional, and financial.  Self-care, as trite as it may sound, is critical to our own health and well-being.  

Working through this simple exercise will enable you to have a firmer footing when the time comes for you to step in.  

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