As the U.S. population ages, the burdens and responsibilities of middle-aged Americans, or the so-called sandwich generation, are increasing. At some point in their life, 47% of adults expect to be responsible for caring for an aging parent.
Tryon Medical Partners understands the importance of managing a parent’s healthcare. Providers frequently have conversations with patients and their children about the best assistance and how to help manage care for their aging parents. But how does one know when it’s time to start helping manage their parents’ care? It isn’t easy and there isn’t a one size fits all solution.
Tryon physicians recommend taking these seven steps when deciding how much help parents need with their healthcare.
1. Start a Discussion About Healthcare Needs
Caring for a parent is never easy when their needs aren’t clear. Talk to them about their medical appointments, daily medications, their primary care physician and medical needs. Are their conditions being managed successfully with medications? Or does their physician feel like they need more intervention or assistance? These conversations will only help in easing the transition for both the parents and the child.
2. Assess Caregiver Needs and Abilities
Everyone is in a different place in their lives. Before taking on a parent’s healthcare needs, stop and think about if it’s really possible. Is there a distance between where the child lives and the parents’ home? Can the child physically be present to help manage medical visits? These are important things to determine before helping parents manage their healthcare. Everyone wants their parents to be safe and it’s not selfish for a child to realize that they may not be the best person to manage their parents’ needs.
3. Manage Access to Private Health Information
Healthcare information and medical records are protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which can limit a caregivers’ ability to access their parent’s medical information or discuss conditions with their parent’s doctor.
- Talk with their parent about being listed on their medical record as someone who can speak with the doctor about their medical conditions
- Have the parent execute a HIPAA-compliant authorization allowing the caregiver access to medical records
- Discuss having the parent execute a healthcare power of attorney so children can more seamlessly manage their parent’s care
4. Include Parents in the Process
No one likes to lose control of their ability to manage their own healthcare. It is important to involve the parents as much as possible when planning their medical care, medications or appointments. This can establish a relationship as partners rather than the child swooping in to make changes.
5. Understand their Financial Situation
Anytime a child is helping manage care for a parent, the subject of cost always comes up. Discuss with each parent the medical care they’re likely to need and estimate future costs to be prepared. Once there is a better understanding of finances, a child can help the parent determine if they can afford the care they will need or if they’ll need financial help.
6. Plan for Simple Communication
Keeping communication simple is the best way to stay involved in a parent’s care, especially if they are starting to experience visual, auditory or cognitive impairment. Ensure that parents can easily call for assistance with medications and appointments. For some parents, it’s as easy as pre-programming phone numbers or keeping information in a planner carried to all medical visits.
7. Explore all Options
Even after following these steps, managing a parents’ healthcare can be a big responsibility. Luckily there are multiple options for caregivers if the burden becomes heavier than they can bear, such as in-home care or senior living.
Tryon physicians recommend that caregivers routinely meet with parents’ doctors to discuss their changing medical needs in person, via virtual visit or immediately through virtual urgent care. This can help to determine which care options are right for their parents and allow for cost and benefit comparisons.