by Judy Timpson
Perhaps I realized this moment was coming, perhaps I didn’t. Either way, when I suddenly found myself taking care of my parents, it was an unsettling experience. There were a lot of questions and I welcomed help to answer them. Planning ahead and staying organized made it easier for me to remain in control.
Care giving for an aging parent, spouse, partner or close friend presents tough challenges, especially when a crisis hits. By examining options early, you will feel better about any decisions that have to be made. If possible, include your loved one and all the other family members in the discussions and encourage a consensus to avoid any hard feelings that may arise. Here are some pointers that will get you on your way:
Are the proper legal tools and documents in place? Has someone been appointed to make health care decisions in case of a temporary disability? Have the seniors clarified their wishes for end-oflife care? If not, consult an attorney to prepare a will, power of attorney for finances, power of attorney for health care and a living will.
What insurance and financial resources do they have? Do they have disability, critical illness or long-term care insurance in place? If so, what exact coverage? Prepare a list showing the value of all their assets (net worth statement) including real estate, home, bank accounts, stocks, bonds and retirement funds. Determine their monthly income from investments, Canadian Pension Plans, Old Age Security and annuities.
Make an information list that includes emergency numbers, doctors, lawyers, dentist, insurance companies, government offices. In case of an emergency, know where to locate legal documents like the will & powers of attorney; financial documents such as investments and bank accounts; and medical documents like health insurance policies. Include family contact numbers.
Keep good records of medical and insurance information. Include a photo copy of both the front and back of health insurance cards and OHIP card. List the dates and results of recent medical tests and x-rays plus major illnesses and medical conditions of parents or siblings.
Keep in mind that the caregiver’s role is to help loved ones maintain as much control over their own lives as feasible, not to take it away. Allow them to make their own decisions unless the decisions are harmful. You will enjoy a smooth transition in your relationship as you show respect, consider desires and consult.