Considerations for caregivers

Best practices for caring for your aging parents

25 Mar 2020

People are living longer than ever before. In fact, in a recent UBS On-Air podcast episode, Intersect Consulting President Dr. Bob Seaberg shared that 10,000 people turn 65 every day, while 85 and older is the fastest growing age group in the US.

As people age, the need for both medical care and help around the house dramatically increases. If you find yourself in a situation where your aging parents need help, either financially or in a caregiving capacity, it is important to consider how it will impact your goals and long-term financial plan.

Key takeaways

  • 10,000 people turn 65 every day and 85 and older is the fastest growing age group in the US.
  • Caregiving is not an easy job. While financial preparations are important, understanding how to best support your aging parent—mentally, physically and emotionally—is key.
  • Beware of the “parent trap”: When adult children begin making decisions for their parents. It’s important that seniors maintain independence and make major decisions for themselves when possible.

What is caregiving?

As we age, we typically go through a series of steps where we become more dependent on someone else. According to Seaberg, those phases are independence, interdependence and dependence. While everyone hopes to remain in the first category, most aging Americans will eventually find they need more assistance.

One of the first types of help someone needs when they age is emotional support. The stress of dealing with sometimes life-threatening medical issues and gradually becoming dependent on others can take a toll on a person’s mental health, often well before the transition is complete.

As time goes on, aging adults may also require help with chores around the house, managing finances and a few other types of recurring needs.

In the dependence stage, help is needed with most daily activities, including bathing, dressing and preparing meals.

Who should be the caregiver?

Seaberg shared that one in four adults aged 65 and older experiences a fall each year. Twenty percent of those falls are serious. With a fall, stroke or other major medical event, the need for care could change in an instant.

Should the need arise, it’s important to be prepared to care for your loved one, either yourself, by other family members or through a healthcare service.

Keep in mind that caregiving is not an easy job. While a relative may be nearby and willing to help, your parent may nonetheless require the assistance of a professional caregiver or in-home health professional, which can be very expensive. Assisted living and skilled nursing facilities also come at a significant cost, so be sure to account for this when working with parents to develop a financial plan.

Considerations when caring for an aging parent

“Beware of the parent trap,” warns Seaberg. As parents age, their adult children often begin to make parent-like decisions for them—but it’s important to remember that it’s their life. Despite taking on greater responsibility for your parents, it’s important to ensure they maintain their independence and make major decisions for themselves when possible.

Caregiving is a challenging role. While some days may feel thankless, many caregivers ultimately find it rewarding to give back to someone who significantly influenced their life.

Be sensitive to a sense of loss and purpose

One of the biggest concerns as someone ages is a fear of loss. Losing one’s independence, mobility and social network can make life more difficult, both physically and psychologically. If your parent is aging, aim to help support their independence.

As we age, we must also maintain our sense of purpose. A strong purpose helps people maintain both their physical and mental health. Work with your loved ones so they know that their contribution to the world won’t be lost.

Understanding the challenges your parents face may not make the job easier, says Seaberg, but it can improve the journey and ultimately make it “better for the aging parent.”

If you have concerns about the financial implications of aging, listen to the podcast episode for more helpful tips and work with your UBS Financial Advisor to prepare for what’s to come.


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