Tips for Assisting Your Senior Citizen Parents

| Tuesday, May 3, 2011
By Jean Cowerd

There are few things more difficult than watching the people who have guided you throughout your life start to lose their independence. Thanks to the gradual increasing of the life expectancy, however, this is a more common experience than ever before.

Baby boomers would do well to sit down with their parents well in advance of major decision-making events, but that isn't always an option. If a need arises before you and your parents have made a plan, there are some general guidelines for you to follow that should help make things easier on them when it comes to the following:

1. Handing over the car keys. While aging people often know deep in their hearts when they aren't up to the task of driving safely for all concerned, they often resist admitting it. Take them (and yourself) out of the equation and get a doctor's evaluation. If it turns out to indeed be time to stop driving, you can help ease their concerns by researching transportation options to present to them.

2. Make a move. Whether your parent simply needs to downsize or it's time for more help than you can provide and assisted living is in order, there are ways to soften the blow. Ask the assisted living facility if they allow trial visits so that your parent can stay a week or two to see how it feels. If they agree to give it a go beyond the trial, try to hold off on selling the house until you are sure the adjustment has been made−it can take up to four months to accept the change. Buying and paying for a home was likely one of your parent's biggest accomplishments, so the best thing you can do is show extreme patience during the transition.

3. Let someone else handle finances. Your parent's generation used their money far different than most people do today. As such, you might have a struggle on your hands if it's truly time for you (or someone else) to take over your parent's finances. Assure them that they will remain in the loop and will be consulted on all decisions. Be prepared for a reluctance to allow for modern conveniences such as electronic bill paying and online banking. Trust is a big issue for the non-technical among us and the older generation still prefers to see the banker's face. Involve them in conversations about the economy and headlines you both have heard in the news so that you have a common ground to start with.

In all cases, make sure that your discussions are from your parent's point of view rather than your own. It doesn't take a college degree in psychology to realize that the best strategy is to ask yourself how you will feel down the road when you are no longer able to live independently. If you keep in mind that your mom or dad is an adult and has earned the right be an active participate in the process, you might find this to be a great opportunity to get even closer emotionally.

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