Perhaps you’re anticipating the moment when you find yourself taking extensive responsibility for your elderly parents. This role reversal, however clearly you see it coming, is almost always emotionally draining. It can also be physically and mentally exhausting, not to mention financially taxing. But there are some things you and your parents can do now to make that future day a little easier.

  • Find out if your parents have long-term care insurance and, if so, how it works. A lot of people don’t invest in long-term care insurance, but, for those who do, it can make a world of difference financially. If your parent does have long-term care insurance, find out what it covers, how much it pays, and what criteria must be met. Most plans, for example, require that a person need help with two to three “activities of daily living” (ADLs) before insurance starts paying. Figuring all of that out ahead of time will prove to be invaluable if you find yourself needing to make a quick decision after an unexpected crisis.
  • Ask your parents to add you to their bank accounts. This is a “meet in the middle” option for parents who aren’t prepared to sign over their finances. If they add you as a co-owner of the account, you can monitor their finances and step in when necessary, while still allowing them to manage their daily expenses.
  • Since situations can change quickly, educate yourself about the care options that are available where you live. A parent’s sudden health crisis is stressful enough, even without the pressure for a quick and smart decision. Start your research well before you expect to need it. Some facilities, for example, accept new patients directly from in-patient hospital care, but have waiting lists for people in other living situations. In that case, you’d be much better off not checking your parent out of the hospital and, instead, transferring them directly to the facility you’ve chosen. It’s also important to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples when considering prices. Some facilities give you one, all-inclusive price, while others charge separately for rent, meals, housekeeping, medication management, etc.
  • Consider alternatives to residential care. Your parent may not need the level of care that a nursing home or assisted living facility provides. In that case, there are other services that can fill the gaps. Some communities have adult day care facilities, for instance, where your parent can stay while you work. And there are numerous companies who will send someone to your home, either for a couple of hours or for the entire day.

Realizing that your parents need your care now as much as you once needed theirs is never easy. But considering some of these “what if” scenarios early, before you need them, can make the transition lot more comfortable for everybody.