Bette Davis is widely credited for the above quote. My 93 year old grandmother would agree as she frequently tells me that “old age is not all it’s cracked up to be”. With all of the issues the elderly commonly face – declining physical and mental health, limited mobility, fall risk, walkers, driving difficulties, daily medications, frequent doctor appointments, paying bills, caregivers, assisted living, nursing home, etc. – the elderly are often reluctant to admit they need help. Frequently, family members only find out how desperately their loved one needs assistance after something traumatic has occurred. Sometimes even when the family recognizes their loved one needs help, they may resist accepting assistance. While watching a loved one decline is heart wrenching, here are a few suggestions:
1. Plan your estate. Make sure your loved one has a will or trust, durable power of attorney and health care power of attorney. This will make it significantly easier if your loved one becomes incapacitated or when they die.
2. Look for signs. While a loved one may try to hide their declining health – especially if their mental health is declining – there are often some telltale signs to look for. These can include, confusion and memory loss, withdrawal from social activities, changes in mood and personality, neglecting personal hygiene or difficulty with routine tasks like paying bills or making dinner.
3. Seek medical help. If a loved one is suspected of having Alzheimer’s, a cognitive evaluation by a gerontologist is recommended. Other health related issues should be promptly addressed by a family physician with referrals made to specialists as needed.
4. Figure out the finances. The sooner you understand your loved one’s financial situation the better. As your loved one’s needs increase, it is important to know whether an assisted living or hiring caregivers are viable options. Also, other options such as Medicaid or Veterans benefits (if your loved one is a wartime veteran or the spouse of a veteran) should be explored. Unfortunately, most people fail to plan ahead and are ill-prepared to help their loved one when they can no longer care for themselves.
Getting old isn’t for wimps – even under the best of circumstances. Don’t assume it will somehow be easy for you or your loved one – see an experienced elder law attorney today.