Caring for Aging Parents: Are You Prepared?

To many young children, their parents are a pair of invincible beings. No monsters can scare them, no question can stump them, and no obstacle could ever interfere with the love and support they provide to their little one. It’s a comforting belief for a young child, and one that can often linger well into adulthood – until the unthinkable happens, and the child becomes their parent’s caregiver.

Today, the United States has a massive senior population; according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are about 47 million seniors living in the country, and that number is expected to reach 100 million by 2060. Healthcare and technology innovations have extended our lifespans by decades, but they’ve also made it more likely that our children will eventually oversee our health care decisions.

Are you prepared to care for your parents in an emergency? Are your children prepared to care for you? Here are a few tips that can help your family prepare for these scary scenarios.

Seniors and Health Emergencies

While improvements in medication and healthcare technology have helped senior citizens live longer and healthier lives, health emergencies are still rather common. About 3,643 seniors suffer from a stroke or heart attack every single day. Emergency rooms across the country treat seniors with fall-related injuries every 11 seconds!

These emergencies can be frightening for both seniors and their families. This is particularly true for adult children, who are often tasked with communicating with medical professionals and caring for their parents during and after an emergency. Making medical decisions on behalf of a parent can be overwhelming and stressful – especially when you aren’t prepared for this responsibility.

Prepare Yourself (And Your Parents)

How can you make sure your parents are well cared for in an emergency? The best thing you can do is prepare for the worst well in advance. A little preemptive planning will ensure that your parents’ wishes are clear and respected, and it will also provide you with peace of mind.

Here are a few things you can do to prepare for a parent’s medical emergency

Tip 1: Have Access to Healthcare Documents

Whether you’re rushing your parent to the hospital after a heart attack or simply taking them in for their annual checkup, it is important to know where they store their essential healthcare documentation. Ask your parents where they keep their health insurance cards, as well as any additional medical paperwork (such as an advanced directive, DNR, or power of attorney form).

If you know where your parents keep this paperwork – or better yet, have a few copies of your own at home – you will be able to grab it from their home and bring it to the hospital on their behalf. This will ensure that your parent’s care lines up with his or her wishes.

 

Tip 2: Know Your Parents’ Medical History

Sometimes, a healthcare emergency can leave an adult incapacitated and unable to speak for themselves. When this happens, adult children can be responsible for answering medical questions – and the answers they give can have a tremendous impact on their parent’s care.

As your parent ages, make sure you know the most important aspects of their medical history:

  • Are they on any medication?
  • Do they have any chronic health conditions?
  • Do they have any allergies?
  • What is your parent’s blood type?

Keep the answers to these questions somewhere you can access them easily (for example, on your phone). This information can be essential in helping medical professionals make the best decisions for your parents.

Tip 3: Stay Up to Date

A person’s healthcare history changes throughout their lives. They may start or stop a certain medication, develop a new health condition, or simply change insurance companies over time. While this is perfectly normal, it can complicate things for children offering care to their parents – if they’re not kept abreast of the changes.

Make sure you always have the latest information on your parents’ medical history. Set aside time to review all medical history information and all health care documents with your parents at least once a year.

 

Tip 4: Make Your Contact Info Available

According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, more than 1 in 6 Americans are caring for an elderly or disabled relative while also working full- or part-time. This means that many caregivers cannot provide constant support to their aging loved ones. However, if something should happen to one of your parents while you’re at the office, it is important to make sure your contact info is easy to find.

In an emergency, most first responders (also known as EMTs) look to a victim’s refrigerator to find an emergency contact number. If you want to be notified of an emergency, put your name and phone number on a sticker or sheet of paper, and then display it somewhere where an EMT might find it – such as on your parent’s fridge or in a cup on a counter or shelf.

 

Tip 5: Help with Home Care

Caring for aging parents isn’t just about taking care of their medical needs; in an emergency, you may also need to assist in home maintenance. This can mean helping to pay bills, keeping the home maintained, and caring for pets while your parent is in the hospital.

In some cases, handling these domestic issues is simple – for example, if your parent lives with you or if they’re able to communicate while in the hospital. However, it is still best to discuss home care with your parents before an emergency occurs. You can even ask your parent to write down instructions for you to follow, as this will guarantee that everyone is on the same page.

 

Tip 6: Communicate with Your Parents

This tip may seem like the easiest one on the list, but it’s more difficult than you might imagine. For most of us, dealing with the thought of medical emergencies and health problems is uncomfortable – whether we’re discussing our parents’ health or our own. However, avoiding these discussions will only make an emergency more difficult than it needs to be.

Ask your parents about the critical medical information you may need to know during an emergency. Find out where they keep their healthcare documentation – and make sure it’s somewhere you can access it easily. You may even want to store these documents online, so they can be accessed on your phone or tablet at a moment’s notice.

By discussing healthcare plans and wishes with your parents ahead of time, you will be able to provide them with the best possible care when that fateful day arrives.

Be Prepared with LifeExec

If you want to make sure that you can help your parents in a medical emergency, LifeExec is the perfect application for you.

Our life management solution helps you prepare for accidents by storing up to twenty essential forms, including medical history, insurance policies, and legal documentation. You can also keep everyone in the family aware of your parent’s condition with our accident notification system, so everyone gets key information as soon as possible.

Sign up for a free LifeExec trial today, and you can try our medical history form absolutely free.

Free Gift for You

LifeExec is a community of people helping people. We work with amazing estate planners, wealth managers, insurance agents, medical professionals, first responders, and real life people that have lived through difficult real life situations. We use this collective wisdom and produce useful tools and resources for you to use while building your life plans.

Download our LifeExec Medical History forms and use them to document important information on you and your parents and follow the tips above.

Please feel free to share them with anyone in your life they may help.

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