Do you have all the information you need to assist your aging parents and even run their household during a health emergency? If a parent gets sick and is hospitalized, or one parent dies and the other is too grief-stricken to deal with real life for a while, do you have the necessary medical and financial information to take care of them, even if they are still living independently?
First and foremost you need to know about medical information. Start keeping an information file so that, if necessary, you can share its contents with a doctor or hospital. The Mayo Clinic website has a excellent list, Aging Parents: 10 Things to Know for an Emergency. The list includes information as easy to find as birth dates and as complex to arrange as an advance medical directive for each parent. You also need to know about parent allergies and the names of medications that they take each day (make a list and keep it current). Also, make sure you know where their medicare cards are kept and make copies of the back and front. Also, make copies of any supplementary insurance cards. Check out the list at the Mayo website.
You can download this medication form and use it to list your parents’ medications. Other similar forms are available on the web, most as PDF documents.
Some knowledge about your parents’ finances is also critical if you are to pay bills and make purchases for them. My name has been added to some of my parents’ bank accounts, so I can write checks and transfer money if necessary. I also know where their bank credit card is kept so I can make purchases, especially for prescriptions and medical devices that they might need. Know the pharmacy that your parents like to use and have its phone number recorded in your file.
Do not be surprised if, the first time you use this information at a bank or pharmacy, you are given the “once-over” and asked extra questions, even if you parents have already introduced you. Enough aging children have taken advantage of their parents, that these institutions want to err on the side of caution — that means protecting your parents.
Here are some links to information about helping aging parents with their finances.