There comes a point in every child's life when the parental roles reverse. Suddenly, the heroes you grew up with need help. While you may also be balancing demands from your children, there are ways to help your parents so that they can maintain their independence while also being realistic about the future.
Physical and Mental Health
One of the first things to consider is physical and mental health. Make sure your parents are signed up for Medicare A and B and discuss with them whether to purchase supplemental insurance, such as Medigap, Medicare Advantage, Medicare Prescription Drug Plans, or long-term care policies. Be careful when choosing or switching between policies. Some will have penalties if you don't enroll during the set windows.
Since mental erosion can be one of the hallmarks of old age, be sure to keep track of how well your parents communicate and keep track of their personal affairs. Since it can be difficult to assess changes, it may be helpful to seek an outside observer, such as one of their friends or associates. Your parents' primary care physician may also be able to help with this delicate subject.
A Body in Motion Stays in Motion
To help keep spirits high, you might discuss an exercise routine. If your parents have been sedentary, it isn't too late to get them off the sofa and onto a routine of mild, but stimulating, exercise. They may enjoy a routine of walking with friends or yoga classes geared towards older practitioners. When your mother and father move around more, they'll discover a brighter mental outlook and even long-term physical benefits.
Nutritional Needs Change
To fuel this newfound pursuit of health and fitness, address the issue of nutrition with your parents. As the body ages, so does its need for certain nutrients. The skin begins to need more vitamin D, and the risk of a B12 deficiency rises. It is thought that many chronic degenerative diseases, such as cataracts, retinal degeneration, and even cancer are brought on by deficiencies in the diet.
Speak to your parents about how to reassess their dietary needs for their golden years. This may be a difficult conversation since so many of us feel strong associations with food. With proper guidance and education, your parents can begin to make the sorts of changes they need in order to prevent many problems while also enjoying the foods they have loved over the course of a lifetime.
Finances Level Off
When your parents have retired, it's likely that their financial lives will level off. Most retirees do not continue earning what they did just a few years prior. With that in mind, discuss with them how to structure their assets so that they're able to maintain a satisfactory standard of living while also ensuring that they'll have enough to live on for the future. Help them assess any IRA accounts and assemble all of their assets for review. A professional financial planner may be helpful in this case.
It may also be time to discuss even longer-range planning, such as a will or trust. An attorney who specializes in family law will be able to help structure your parents' assets so that there will be a smooth and relatively tax-free transfer upon their passing. In fact, there are many things your parents can do while living to ensure that they have maximum comfort while also leaving a healthy legacy.
The golden years can be a time of great growth and happiness for your parents. The happier and healthier they are, the more you can enjoy their wit and wisdom without having to manage issues related to illness. While it's inevitable that a decline will come, you'll save everyone hardship in the long run when you make arrangements to support and develop the health and well-being they currently have.