Moving from one stage of life to another often brings about change; in some cases that change can feel unexpected. For seniors, this transition could be caused by an injury, mobility issues, or cognitive decline. In any case, a senior’s family should be the first to recognize where assistance is needed and take on any responsibilities that are necessary to help their loved one live well in their golden years.
Start a Conversation
In a study conducted by UCSF, researchers found that 43% of older adults felt lonely, which has been linked to serious health issues. This struggle with loneliness is something that everyone has experienced at one time or another, so go out of your way to stay in touch with your older family members. Be available for them; try to schedule a call or a visit ahead of time. Starting a conversation with them can also reveal other areas in which you may be able to help.
If you’re seeing signs of mental or physical decline in your loved one, you might also need to have a conversation with them about moving to some form of assisted living or transitioning to in-home care if necessary. This conversation can be difficult, especially if they value their independence and often resist assistance. It’s important to include multiple family members in these types of conversations so you can have the most support. Usually it’s the daughter or son that has to have this conversation, but don’t be afraid to ask other family members for help.
Encourage a Healthy Lifestyle
Speaking of independence, one way for seniors to retain as much self-sufficiency as possible is by staying healthy. Exercising is ultimately something that only they can choose to do, but you should still encourage them to participate in some sort of exercise. If you live nearby, go for a walk with them every week or see if they have any friends that would want to go with them. If they seem more interested in it as you talk, look up some simple exercises for seniors on YouTube that they can try.
Another piece of the healthy lifestyle puzzle is healthy eating. If they still live on their own, you can share recipes with each other and have them over for a meal if they live close to you. If you take more of a caregiver role, you can do the cooking. This process can help develop healthy dietary habits for your elder and yourself included.
Continued social interaction among seniors is also vital in retaining a healthy lifestyle. As mentioned earlier, loneliness is very common among seniors, so do anything you can to help them get involved. If they live on their own, see if they’re interested in volunteering or participating in recurring local events.
Handle the Finances
If your loved one is more dependent and you are taking on the role of caregiver, you need to make sure their finances are well organized. Economic security among seniors is shakier than you would imagine. Approximately one in three older adults 65 years old and older are economically insecure. Many families are unaware of their older loved one’s financial situations until they start to break it down.
One of the first things you should do is make sure that they have a will in place. If they’re in their retirement years, hopefully they already have one in place, but still check. If they don’t, consult with a lawyer or explore the various free options online.
Next, you need to identify all of their financial documents and store everything in one place. Files like insurance documents and contacts should be neatly organized so nothing gets jumbled. Having everything in one place will make the organization process much easier now and in the future.
One of the biggest elements included in their will is what will happen to their property. When a loved one passes, sometimes families decide to sell the house, while others choose to keep it in the family. If you choose to sell the house, search for realtors in your area that know the market well. If you’re unsure about who to work with you can look up reviews on realtors in your area. If you choose to keep the house you will have to account for any outstanding mortgage. The best course of action would be to pay it off completely with any money received from the estate. Receiving money as a beneficiary could take between 8-12 months because it is held in probate, but it would be worth the wait. If paying off the mortgage in full is not an option, the house can be refinanced to save money in the long run. Refinancing allows you to adjust the interest rate or loan period, reducing the amount of interest paid. If this is the route you want to take, you can learn how to refinance a house to get the process started. Of course, have this conversation with your family before making any decisions.
Help With Tech
Some seniors are more tech-savvy than others. If your loved one is less technology-oriented than most, you may need to give them a hand. Record all of their login information in one place so they don’t have to worry about forgetting anything. Many seniors fall victim to online scams. It’s important to educate your loved one on how scams work and what to look out for. Many of these scams happen over the phone or through email, so advise them to be conscious when entering personal or financial information online.
Another detail to consider is investing in some smart home technology. Having smart home technology can help seniors with everyday tasks and provide security. Even something small like an Amazon Echo can help. For example, if they were to fall and were unable to move, they could use their voice to call a family member.
At the end of the day, you and your family are responsible for taking care of your aging loved ones. Stay in touch with them whenever you can and be curious about things they may need help with. Encourage them to live a healthy lifestyle and offer any assistance you can.
Article specially prepared for amacfoundation.org by the Miranda Grace and associates.