If You Have Elderly Loved Ones, You Need to Do This

Most people don't like to think about their parents becoming more fragile and being unable to fend for themselves. But as they age, the reality is that they could need your assistance with a variety of health issues. This can quickly become overwhelming, especially if you're also struggling to keep up with your own responsibilities.

A study published by the AARP Public Policy Institute in 2011 called, "Valuing the Invaluable: 2011 Update; The Growing Contributions and Costs of Family Caregiving," calls attention to the strain that taking care of an ill or elderly relative places on caregivers. Coping with an emergency situation only worsens the stress many caregivers face.

Elderly Emergency Plan

The experts say that the best way to manage an elderly health care crisis is to consider the following 5 steps that should be part of your elderly emergency plan. Many of these are things you can do in advance so you'll be prepared for anything that comes your way.

1. Encourage your parents to fill out legal documents to protect their best interests, such as a power of attorney to designate someone to make decisions for them if they are unable, and a living will, which states their preferences regarding life-prolonging treatment. Look to a lawyer in your state who specializes in elder affairs to advise them on what's best for their situation. Also be sure you know where the documents are kept so you can access them when needed.

2. Compile a list of key facts about your parents, such as their health histories, surgeries, medication usage, and contact information for their health care providers. This information can be very useful in the event of an emergency so the crisis medical team can make informed decisions.

3. Meet with your parents' neighbors next time you go for a visit and ask if you can contact them in an emergency. You may need someone to check on your parents during the night, feed the pets, or water the plants. This can be especially important if you live out of the area and can't handle these details yourself right away.

4. Develop a contingency plan at home and work that you can put in place in the event you need to leave suddenly to handle a caregiving emergency. Have someone who can watch your children at a moment's notice. Be familiar with your workplace policy on taking a leave of absence. Also ask if your workplace offers any resources for employees grappling with eldercare responsibilities and strain.

5. Develop a network of friends you can count on in a crisis. Program their phone numbers into your cell phone so you will have them with you if you suddenly need to travel. Don't be afraid to ask for help when you feel overwhelmed. Such physical and emotional support can be key to managing a caregiving emergency and also keeping it from taking a toll on your own health.


AARP. "Are You Overwhelmed Caring for Someone Else? Call Your Concierge." Bulletin. 18 July 2011. Web. 25 June 2012."

AARP. "Caregiver Resource Center." N.d. Web. 25 June 2012.

AARP. "How to Cope with a Caregiving Crisis. "Bulletin. 14 Nov. 2011. Web. 25 June 2012.

AARP Police Institute. "Valuing the Invaluable: 2011 Update; The Growing Contributions and Costs of Family Caregiving," "Valuing the Invaluable: 2011 Update; The Growing Contributions and Costs of Family Caregiving." 2011. Web. 29 June 2012.

NPR. "Preparing for a Future that Includes Aging Parents." 24 April 2012. Web. 25 June 2012.