Aging parents – distressing though it is to recognize – inevitably face declining capacities over which they have diminishing control. As a result, many of us are confronted with the unenviable task of managing the wealth, health and overall wellbeing of parents who can no longer adequately look after themselves.
Before things take a turn for the worse, most experts agree there are three main areas concerned children of aging parents should be paying attention to: Finances, Exercise, and Nutrition.
- Consider consolidating accounts. If your parent(s) have multiple bank and investment accounts, try to reduce the number of accounts and institutions. They will likely benefit from lower fees and a more integrated approach. This approach will help you stay on top of things, if that is necessary.
- Suggest a review of statements. If they’re comfortable sharing their financial details, your parents might be able to set you up to receive – with the assent of their existing financial advisor, should they have one – copies of their statements.
- Aging parents are, or can be, vulnerable to scams. This will help you remain alert, ontheir behalf.
- Prepare a financial data organizer. Summarize accounts, details of any life insurancepolicies and, if they have safety deposit boxes, be sure you know where to find importantlegal documents and account passwords. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’sa start.
- Consider a discussion about having a Power of Attorney. This would permit you toconsult their existing financial advisor, among other things. Sensitivity is key.
- Encourage your parents to exercise. Exercise delivers many tangible benefits: fewer heart risks, improved sleep and memory, less depression and pain, better bone strength, and fewer falls. Walking is easily achievable for most seniors.
- Suggest they do anything that sounds like fun: local municipal programs offer classes geared specifically to seniors’ needs for increased strength and flexibility. This kind of participation encourages social interaction as well.
- Consider encouraging your aging parents to Go Mediterranean. With its emphasis on fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest ways in the world to eat.
- The Mediterranean diet has been linked to better heart health and greater longevity. Suggest cutting down on butter. Recommend switching to unsaturated olive oil for cooking and for salad dressings.
- Encourage them to switch to fish. Twice a week, propose that they substitute a serving of salmon, herring, or albacore tuna for red meat.
- Invite them to consider more room on their plate for vegetables like broccoli, kale, carrots, and tomatoes. Suggest they grill or steam them instead of frying.
As we consider handing out this good advice, we’d do well to try and adopt some of these practices ourselves!
For those facing more difficult challenges with aging parents, we recommend a previous post that includes some terrific resources: Sandwich Generation Forced to Take Bigger Bites