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How to create a successful family plan for parents' needs

Families too often are not prepared psychologically, socially or financially to deal with the needs of aging parents.

That's why the University of Texas-Houston Health Science Center's Aging Resource Information Support and Education (ARISE) program encourages family meetings to develop a plan to meet senior parents' needs before an emergency forces action.

To ease the tensions of such a meeting and make sure nothing is overlooked, the Center of Aging recommends:

  • Include all siblings. If everyone can't be there in person, make sure they're present via phone.
  • Prepare a checklist of signs that mom or dad may need help so each child can use it as a reference. Things to look for include weight loss, memory loss, change in personal hygiene habits, change in sleep patterns and financial mismanagement (e.g., non-payment of bills).
  • Divide parental assistance responsibilities logically and fairly. If a brother lives near mom, let him come over to do her laundry. If a sister lives in another state, have her pay mom's monthly bills.

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  • Don't blame -- each other or your parent. Often, the Center notes, the child who lives nearest the parent bears the brunt of sibling anger for natural aging processes affecting their parent.
  • Be flexible. Changing needs mean changing ways to deal with them.
  • Reach a consensus on how to best care for your aging parent, but accept that not everyone will agree with the final plan.
  • Don't forget about your own family. The Center says the sandwich generation children frequently take their spouse or kids for granted when they are concentrating on the needs of mom or dad.
  • Remember that you can't be the "super mom" -- even to your own parents. When the pressure gets to be too much, seek professional caregiver help.
  • Make your parents an integral part of the get-together. They are why you're meeting, so respect their needs and wishes and maintain their dignity.

-- Updated: May 3, 2004

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See Also
Financial planning for parents is a family affair
Finding a caregiver for elderly parents
Long-term care insurance: 12 questions to ask

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