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Caring for Our Parents

By Attorney Todd Schluesche

Aging is something we can’t escape, and it affects all families.  It can be challenging to recognize our parents as senior citizens who may need help in their daily lives.  Even if your aging parents are currently living independently there will likely come a day when they need assistance or long-term care.   When thinking about your parents and their abilities to remain independent, you should consider their Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs).

Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) are activities that people need to perform each day in order to care for themselves and maintain their independence.  ADLs are essential daily living requirements that promote dignity and physical as well as emotional well-being for your elderly parents.  ADLs include:

  • Getting in and out of bed or a chair
  • Self-feeding
  • Bathing and personal hygiene
  • The ability to use the toilet
  • The ability to get dressed

If your parents are having difficulty managing any of these ADLs, it is time to find help for them, whether that help is from you or another qualified caregiver.

Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) are activities related to independent living and are valuable for evaluating persons with early-stage difficulties.  IADLs include all of the ADLs plus the following additional activities:

  • Grocery shopping and cooking
  • Medication management
  • Laundry and other housework
  • Bill paying and finance management
  • Using a telephone
  • Driving or using public transportation

Recognizing a parent’s limitations in any of the additional IADL activities is a sign that you need to develop a care plan that provides appropriate assistance.  Difficulty in performing IADL activities may indicate that staying at home is no longer appropriate and safe for your parent.  A comprehensive geriatric assessment by a medical professional can help determine suitable care needs.  Take an honest look at what your parent is experiencing and then find the support and help they require.

It’s always better to discuss a parent’s care needs before they experience an adverse health event.  Making residential changes without a plan in place can negatively impact the parent, especially when experiencing a health care crisis.  When aging at home cannot be appropriately managed, it is time to consider alternatives.  These alternatives may include independent living communities, assisted living communities, nursing homes, or living with a trustworthy and capable relative or family member.

Your parents’ care and living arrangements affect their finances.  Making necessary residential changes can often be very costly, and your parent may need additional financial support from government or community programs to cover these costs.  It is critical to take advantage of all possible financial help.

Caring for your aging parents should not be the job of one family member. The commitment should not be a burden, and responsibilities should be shared.  Look for caregiver support organizations and forums and involve all family members.  The goal is to find the best blend of options and resources to allow your parents to age happily and well.

We help families who are trying to navigate the maze of long-term care either for themselves or for an aging parent.  Please give us a call at (608) 325-2500 to schedule an appointment so that we can discuss your particular needs.

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