The declining capacity of aging parents is something most of us have to face eventually. Managing that process is one of the least enviable parts of being a son or a daughter, but it’s an issue that, sadly, has to be dealt with – whether we like it or not.
One of the difficulties, most experts on the subject agree, is getting parents to accept that they need help in the first place. Discretion and tact are crucial. They brought you up, after all. Now, regrettably, the roles are slowly being reversed.
We have found more and more of our clients are caring for their elderly parents in their last few years. In many of the conversations we are having with our clients, the concept of “aging in place” frequently comes up. Aging in place describes an elderly person who lives in the residence of their choice as long as they are able; bringing in the services and assistance they need during that time. Often, hiring a live-in-caregiver can be a wonderful way to assist your parents, if they choose to age in place. The cost is more reasonable than most people realize. In the end, this is just one option and should be based on what the needs and wishes of your elderly loved ones are.
Of all the issues that require attention, there are three – again, the experts on aging suggest – that should be at the top of your list:
- Money management
- Regular exercise
- Sensible nutrition
- Consolidate their accounts. This issue is the toughest of the three. If your parent(s) have multiple bank and investment accounts, reduce the number of accounts they maintain and financial institutions that they do business with. Lower fees and a more integrated approach will result. If staying on top of things is your goal, this is a sensible strategy to adopt.
- Suggest a review of statements. If they are comfortable sharing their financial details, your parents might be able to set you up to receive – with the assent of their existing financial advisor – copies of their statements. Aging parents are, or can be, vulnerable to scams. This will help you remain alert, on their behalf.
- Prepare a financial data organizer. Summarize accounts, details of any life insurance policies and, if they have safety deposit boxes, be sure you know where to find important legal documents and account passwords. This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a start.
Overall, care should be taken to consult their existing financial advisor of the steps and sensitivity is key.
- Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, a genetic metabolic neurologist at McMaster University, recently wrote: ‘If there was a drug that could do for human health everything that exercise can, it would likely be the most valuable pharmaceutical ever.’
- Encourage your parents to exercise. Exercise delivers tangible benefits: fewer heart risks, improved sleep and memory, less depression and pain, better bone strength, and fewer falls.
- Suggest they do anything that sounds like fun: walk briskly, ride a stationary bike, swimming, or taking a dance class. Even better, advocate alternate aerobics with strength and flexibility training for a well-rounded program.
- Encourage your aging parents to Go Mediterranean. With its emphasis on fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest ways in the world to eat.
- This approach to nutrition has been linked to better heart health and greater longevity. Suggest cutting down on butter. Recommend switching to unsaturated olive oil for cooking, and the use of olive oil for salad dressings.
- Suggest a switch to fish. Twice a week, propose that they substitute red meat for a serving of salmon, herring, or albacore tuna.
- Loading up on vegetables is good advice for aging parents. Invite them to consider more room on their plate for broccoli, kale, carrots, and tomatoes (technically a fruit, but widely regarded as a vegetable for cooking).
The Wooding Group at CIBC Wood Gundy, 780 498-5047