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Aging parents checklist: A guide to senior life planning

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While caring for adults as they age can be a challenging responsibility for children and other family members, it's also a time to reflect on happy memories and plan for the future. Those with aging parents may be tasked with caregiving, housing and even legal responsibilities. If you find yourself caring for an aging loved one, it's important to remember you're not alone.

In fact, caring for adults and parents as they get older is fairly common, and the demand for caregivers continues to increase. A study found that 41.8 million adults in the U.S. are caregivers to patients ages 50 and older. With the growing prevalence of senior caregiving across the nation, it’s likely you or someone you know will take the lead to help aging parents live comfortably and have peace of mind. 

Whether your aging parent or loved one needs support for the first time, or you’re planning for the future, it’s important to be prepared. This could mean ensuring legal documents and up-to-date life insurance policies are in order, and keeping medical support on speed dial. 

Read on or skip to our aging parents checklist for a step-by-step guide to help you navigate senior life planning.

How to talk to aging parents about life planning

Families don’t always agree on what’s best for parents as they age. Having a discussion to go over care options and wishes is important to ensure everyone is on the same page, in case decisions need to be made on an aging parent’s behalf. We’ve shared a few tips below to help you get the conversation started. 

Start the conversation early

The earlier you begin the conversation around senior life planning the better. This will ensure you have adequate time to carry out any plans or make changes based on your aging parents’ needs. Loop in any important parties or family members to make sure everyone is clear and comfortable with the decisions that are being made. 

Create a safe environment 

Discussing senior life planning isn’t always easy. This can be an emotional discussion for both your parents and yourself. Make sure to create a safe environment that encourages open dialogue and empowers your parents to express their thoughts, concerns and wishes. Being patient and understanding can remove pressure around the subject and help everyone get the most out of the conversation. 

Do your research 

Before discussing life plans with aging adults, do your research. Come prepared with different housing, caregiving and medical options for them to choose from. You should also go over insurance policies and senior benefits to ensure your parents are enrolled in everything they need.  

Take notes

There is quite a lot to go over when it comes to senior planning, so remember to take notes during your conversation. If you feel note-taking could be a distraction, record the conversation to make sure you don’t miss any important details.

If you need help finding the right words, use the printable conversation starters below to help move the discussion along. These conversation starters have important questions to ask aging adults on their wishes for medical care, finances and end-of-life arrangements. 

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Conversation starters
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Tasks to consider when caring for aging adults

When it comes to senior life planning for aging adults, there can be several important details to go over and discuss. Read over the checklist below to make sure you and your loved ones are not forgetting any key information or particulars. 

Review their health and medical support needs

A senior life plan begins with understanding your parents’ health and medical needs. Even if they are in good health, it’s important that your parents’ care and treatment preferences are stated in a living will and discussed with family members. 

  • Go over health needs, like medication and routine health care 
  • Gather important health/medical contacts 
  • Locate the nearest hospital or urgent care facility 
  • Establish a relationship with their primary care physician 
  • Discuss their latest check-up and help schedule upcoming appointments 
  • Review any chronic conditions 
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Health and medical information sheet
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Discuss options for living arrangements

Aging can present itself with new safety concerns, especially around the house. Discuss various senior living options to best understand if your parents are comfortable with living alone or would prefer making other arrangements. If your parents are able to continue living at home, consider a few home remodeling options to help them safely age in place.

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  • Come to an agreed upon housing arrangement
  • Implement any home updates or modifications to make their current living situation safe and comfortable
  • If they are a homeowner, go over any outstanding mortgage or loan debt associated with the home
  • Come up with a housing debt repayment plan
  • Consider long-term care insurance in the event that long-term care is required

Go over finances

When discussing aging plans with your parents, make sure to get their thoughts on how they’d like their finances handled if they are no longer able to make those decisions. Important topics to go over could include home ownership, outstanding debts, savings and retirement funds.

  • Ask what financial accounts are open and where they are held 
  • Gather contact information for their advisors
  • Make sure all accounts are titled correctly 
  • Educate yourself on Social Security benefits 
  • Ensure beneficiary designations are up-to-date
  • Find ways to streamline bill paying, like setting up automatic payments 

Create a caregiving plan 

Help your aging parent create a caregiving plan so that there are no questions on what care is needed down the line

  • Create a caregiving plan in the event that they cannot care for themselves
  • Meet with their doctors to discuss any changes in their personal needs
  • Familiarize yourself and your parent with different caregiving options
  • Ask if they have any specific needs to maintain their health and comfort 
  • If there are pets that need to be cared for, create a caregiving plan for them as well 

Use the caregiving information sheet below to list the health needs and care requirements for your parents. This sheet can make it easy to keep important information in one place. Aging adults can use this sheet for themselves or distribute it to caregivers. 

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Caregiver information sheet
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Gather legal documents 

Taking care of legal issues while your parents are in good health can reduce stress brought on by the caregiving process. Discuss legal issues with your aging parent and make sure you know where to find their personal information and documents if you ever need them. 

  • Discuss where important documents are being stored 
  • Ask if a will has been drawn up and where it’s located
  • Check in to see if they have  power of attorney for finances and health care
  • Review their estate plan to ensure beneficiaries and responsibilities are up-to-date and listed correctly

Discuss insurance plans

Last but not least, make sure to go over your parent’s insurance policies. It’s important to know what policies they hold and if they’re adequate, as well as where any accounts are located and if they’re up-to-date. This can help prevent financial burdens in case of a medical emergency or accident. 

  • Make a list of all active insurance policies (auto, home, health, long-term care, etc) 
  • Gather contact information for their insurance advisers
  • Review homeowners, auto and life insurance to make sure they are adequate and up-to-date 
  • Look over health insurance coverage and see if any policy changes need to be made based on your parent’s current or future needs 

Aging parents checklist 

The task of caring for an aging parent is a big and often challenging responsibility. Use the aging parent checklist below to ensure you’ve got all the bases covered when it comes to life planning and next steps for your aging loved ones. 

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Aging parents checklist
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Remember, caring for aging parents is an ongoing project and their needs may evolve over time. Continue to work with your parents and have an ongoing conversation so that you can best understand their needs and wishes, even if they change. 

Planning for the future care starts in the present. Make sure you start the conversation early and decide what type of life insurance is best for you and your family. 

 

Source: AARP 

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