Color & Control:

10 things you can do right now!

By Rick Lauber

Packing your suitcase ahead of time, rather than late the night before your departure, results in a more relaxed experience, more time to find everything you need, and less likelihood of forgetting anything. There’s an important lesson here for family caregivers as well…pre-planning for the helping years ahead results in a much smoother trip. Begin by prioritizing. Focus first on these 10 things you can do for your aging parents, with their blessing of course.

1. Manage medical and health issues: Meet the doctor(s). Understand health conditions along
with current and expected medical needs (e.g. new medications, a wheelchair/walker). In addition to meeting the doctor, request a physical exam for your loved one. And also introduce yourself to their pharmacist, dentist, and occupational and physiotherapists. The pharmacist can advise on and supply medication in blister packs for easier use, the dentist can perform oral checkups, teeth cleaning and necessary dental work, OT’s and PT’s can assist with exercise, equipment prescriptions and
energy saving techniques.

2. Review financial issues: Try to meet your parent’s banker and/or financial planner with them. Consider asking to become a co-signer on bank/investment accounts to keep bills, taxes, home repairs and investments in order. Are there any additional sources of income such as rental or investment income? As a published author, my father still collected royalties for sold books until he passed away. Does mom or dad have a forgotten foreign account that may be still collecting interest? Which investments need immediate attention, and which can be left alone?

3. Update wills and powers of attorney: Marriage or remarriage? Children. Property/collectible acquisitions. Final wishes. Much can change in a person’s life and these details must be correctly accounted for in a properly drawn-up recent will. Know where wills and powers of attorney are stored. Is it in a safety deposit box or tucked away in a home safe, a kitchen cupboard, or a dresser drawer?

4. Handle housing needs: Family caregivers need to closely examine safety and assess residences for “aging-in-place” potential. A home that has been welcoming for many years may not still be suitable. Exterior or interior house stairs can become obstacles (a basement or second floor can become completely inaccessible). A bathroom may be on the wrong floor or too small to accommodate a wheelchair or walker. Is your senior ready to downsize? Are they lonely, rumbling around in a large home on their own? Is their family home too much to keep clean, heat and cool or feel safe in? An older home may need regular repairs.

5. Donate or organize a garage sale: Sorting out unneeded belongings could be done together. One easy way to dispose extra stuff is through a garage sale. Selling off the parental keepsakes may be difficult, but it can also be cathartic. Why not donate items to the Salvation army or local thrift store? How about giving the proceeds of your garage sale to a favourite charity?

6. Attend to online accounts: Does your loved one have a presence on social media? Keeping up with Facebook and/or Twitter accounts takes time and energy. If they’re no longer using them, it may be better to close them. Doing so is easy. Here are instructions for both Facebook and Twitter accounts: You’ll need your parent’s usernames and passwords for access to their accounts.

7. Cancel subscriptions: As an avid reader, my father subscribed to several newspapers and magazines. After being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Dad became unable to continue enjoying these publications. It was a simple matter to contact billing departments and cancel subscriptions and memberships.

8. Hire a “senior’s errand” service: Older parents may find it more difficult to get things done. A “senior’s errand” service can be of tremendous help. Wendy Moyle, CEO & Founder of Wendy’s Errands for Elders (Edmonton, AB), explains that “companies like [hers] provide assistance in maintaining an independent lifestyle, for both the senior and the caregiver, wherever they may choose to live and call home.” Offered services and/or support varies, but Moyle’s team can help with tasks such as grocery shopping, arranging appointments, transportation, pet services, banking assistance and technology setup/training.

9. Volunteer and give back: Older adults can contribute significantly to the well-being of others and their communities. Can they make fundraising calls, help with the book-keeping for a local kids or seniors club? Tutor inner city kids? Why not reach out to local charities and/or associations to see what opportunities exist?

10. Incorporate some fun: Growing older can be hard to accept, so having fun at this stage in life is more important than ever. Once we’re past COVID-19, family caregivers could register themselves and seniors for exercise sessions. Try walking, bicycling, gardening, bird watching, swimming, or going on a picnic.

There’s no doubt about it, day-to-day caregiving can be both challenging and time-consuming. Layer on caregiving in a crisis and you’ll feel like your life has been totally turned upside down, along with your finances and, potentially, your own overall health and well-being. You’ll be tasked in many ways you had never imagined. And, while you likely won’t be able to plan for everything life throws at you, you’ll undoubtedly feel better and do a better job if you’ve made a plan and packed that “caregiving suitcase” ahead of time.

Rick Lauber is a book author and an established freelance writer. He has written two books, Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians and The Successful Caregiver’s Guide (Self-Counsel Press).

Related Articles

Recent Articles

Complimentary Issue

If you would like to receive a free digital copy of this magazine enter your email.