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Parenting Your Aging Parents
by Robert Moskowitz
TheSyndicatedNews columnist

Sample Column with Two Letters

Column #112

Parenting Your Aging Parents

© Copyright 2006 by
Robert Moskowitz

Dear Robert:

My brothers and sisters and I all live far away from my aged father. For example, I’m in Seattle, Betty is in Detroit, Joe lives in New York, and my father lives in Florida. He says he’s feeling fine, but he has some chronic conditions that are not going to get any better. Frankly, we’re worried about him. How can we possibly monitor his well being from these distances?

Signed, Distant and Distraught

Dear Distant:

You’re not the only family with a problem like this one. Today in the U.S., adult children of aging parents are far more apt to live farther than 200 miles from their parents than to live within 200 miles of them. The result: a massive need for some kind of system or capability that lets you know your aging father is still OK, even though you can’t see him with your own eyes. A telephone helps only a certain amount.

The most natural approach would be for a brother or sister, or even an aunt or an uncle, who lived in his vicinity to look in from time to time. They could check on his condition and make sure he’s coping with the normal issues of daily living.

But since you don’t have a family member near enough to your dad, you’ll probably have to pay for the service. Even in families that have someone nearby, it’s often difficult to impossible for them to take on this responsibility. That’s why today there are a great many professional care managers (sometimes known as geriatric case managers) who specialize in providing the same kind of monitoring and helpfulness you’d expect from a brother or sister living very near your aging father. Fortunately, their services don’t have to be very expensive. Expect to pay between $50 and (in some cases) $100 per hour for their work. But once they establish a relationship with your father, they’ll generally need to work only two or three hours each month.

One way to find a good professional care manager, provided you have access to the Internet, is to go to the “AgeNet” web site, which has a URL of “”. Here you can do an instant electronic search for care managers in whatever state you prefer. You’ll be happy to know there are quite a few listed for Florida. Other states are also well represented.

Another source of good referrals is the discharge planner at any good hospital in your aging parent’s locale. These professionals tend to have very detailed knowledge of all the relevant resources available in their coverage areas, and are happy to help you select whatever services you and your father may need to help maintain his quality of life.

* * *

Dear Robert:

My parents are not getting any younger, but they seem to feel they will live forever. Many times my sisters and I have mentioned the importance of having a will, but mom and dad don’t seem ready to do anything about it. How do I get my parents to draft a will, and other legal documents? What are all the documents needed?

Signed, Living Without A Net

Dear Living Without:

You’re right, of course. For your parents to go on without a will and some form of advance directives is like driving a car with no brakes. They might not get into trouble, but chances are very good they’ll wish they had been a little more prudent. The big problem is: once unfortunate events show them they should have been more prudent, it’s already too late to do much to improve the situation.

That’s why advance planning is such a central element of helping your aging parents maintain their quality of life.

If your parents really are losing the ability to think and plan for themselves, you’ll want to get yourself or one of your siblings appointed by the courts to some form of conservatorship. This process results in giving the conservator the legal power necessary to take care of your aging parents.

If they are still sharp enough to run their own affairs, however, your only real option is to convince them of the importance of signing the proper documents before the family actually needs them.

Consult a local lawyer to determine the correct forms and wording of the documents your aging parents will need in their state. But generally, these documents include a will (which provides for final disposal of their material goods in accordance with their wishes), a durable health care power of attorney (which gives someone they trust the final say about health care and other important decisions when your parents are not able to exercise control directly), and a living will (which expresses their desires regarding certain forms of life-supporting treatment). They may also want to execute a "do not resuscitate" form which explicitly states they do not want to be kept on life-support if there is no chance for a return to an acceptable quality of life.

These are choices your parents can make (with the advice of family members, of course) only if they make them in advance of any need. Make sure your parents understand that by avoiding the documents, they're not avoiding the decisions. They're simply letting these same decisions be made for them by strangers.

* * *

To help your aging parents maintain their quality of life, think in terms of becoming like flowing water, which over time can create beautiful formations out of the toughest rocks.

Published: Jul 11,2008 12:45
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