It was bound to happen. After years of family milestones happening in age -appropriate order, there is a bump in the road. Someone in the older generation has a sudden health crisis. Or maybe someone has been showing small signs of decline over time. Either way, it is time for family to step in and step up. It is also the time when many families realize they are unprepared for the job.
Traditionally, members of the “greatest generation” are very private and fiercely independent. It will require a little tact and a lot of respect to earn the right to help. Starting before the crisis will certainly grease the wheels. Here are some tips that may help ease the transition for everyone involved.
- Basic Information: Explain to your loved one that you want to be able to help in any way possible, if and when the time comes. Ask if they would be willing to tell you who the Agents are in their Powers of Attorney, and where those documents are kept. They don’t need to give the documents to you, or even show them to you, unless they are comfortable with that. Ask if you might be able to take a picture of their insurance cards to keep handy if there is an unexpected trip to the emergency room.
- Health Information: Ask if they might sit down with you so you can make a list of the medicines they take, the dosages, and what they are for. Do they get their refills locally, or do they use a mail order service? Maybe they would be willing to start using a weekly pill sorter, and maybe you can start a weekly coffee date to fill the box together. They can be teaching you how they like it!
- Financial Information: This is a tough one. Ask if they would allow you to get a feel for the monthly expenses. Try making a bill calendar of what comes due and when (for your reference). Are any of the payments automatically withdrawn from a bank account? Or billed directly to a credit card account? Would they be willing to make a monthly date with you to pay the bills together so that you can become familiar with the way they like to do things?
- Household Maintenance: Are there particular chores that your loved one likes to have done on a regular basis? The routine of life is an anchor for someone who is struggling physically or mentally. Sharing in tasks like window washing twice a year, defrosting the freezer, or the seasonal swap of screens for storm windows is a wonderful way to lend a hand and a time to swap stories and memories.
The focus here is on offering help on THEIR TERMS and at their comfort level. Consider it more of a partnership than a rescue. It is no small honor to be allowed to share in these tasks. And someday, you may find that the time you spent “helping” gave you countless memories to cherish.