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How to Create an Emergency Plan for Your Aging Parents

By Kimberly FowlerAugust 21, 2017
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Today many North Americans are facing a new reality, especially if you’re part of the “sandwich generation” — individuals between the ages of 40 and 60 who are sandwiched between their adult children and grandchildren, and their own aging parents.

People who fall into this category may find themselves facing the dual responsibility of supporting their children while providing regular care to a senior parent. All of this at a time when people are generally at the height of their careers and working hard to ensure their own financial security.

Worrying about a parent or senior who lives on their own can be very overwhelming, stressful and time consuming. Looking for a solution? Create an emergency plan for your aging parents and family — it may just help put your mind at ease.

An Emergency Plan for Your Aging Parents

An emergency plan can involve anything from what to do in case of an environmental or medical emergency, to future advanced care planning and power of attorney directives.

Developing a plan that addresses all of these factors will ensure that you know what the next vital steps are when faced with an emergency situation. An emergency plan is a road map for you (and other important people in your aging parent’s life) to follow in a time of crisis, that is based on the wishes of your aging parent.

Having a well laid out plan will help you make the best choices on behalf of your parent if they are unable to make their own decisions, as well as ensuring everyone in your family is on the same page (which can relieve a lot of unnecessary stress in an already difficult time).

How to Create an Emergency Plan

1. Have an open conversation.

Beginning with an honest and open discussion will help to find out what is important to both your aging parent, as well as you and your other family members who are in the role of caregiver.

Discussing the “what if” scenarios may be difficult:

  • What if Dad has a fall at home and cannot reach the telephone to call for help?
  • What if Mom suffers a stroke that leaves him unable to communicate verbally?
  • What if Uncle John is home alone during a severe weather occurrence?

These conversations are vitally important to root out your parents’ true wishes and ensure you have a plan in place to follow them.

2. Come to a mutual understanding.

Deciding on both of your biggest concerns and priorities can help you come to a mutual understanding of what the best plan should be. Although everyone should ideally be on the same page, at the end of the day the opinion that matters the most is that of your aging parent.

Goals that may be important to your parent might include:

  • Remaining active and healthy
  • Remaining as independent as possible, for as long as possible
  • Remaining in their own home for as long as possible
  • Remaining (or becoming) involved in the community
  • Relocating to a smaller home, or moving to a different area
  • Staying close to family

Take a look at specific areas of need, including:

  • Financial affairs
  • Living situations
  • Personal and health care needs
  • Transportation needs

Coming to a mutual understanding of an emergency plan based on these needs will ensure everyone feels heard and respected.

3. Create a checklist and organize important documents.

Creating a checklist of important documents and keeping them in one central location will ensure that you and your family have what you need in the event of an emergency.

Important documents may include:

  • Address book – including contact information for family members, friends, church, community groups, etc.
  • Advanced care plan and/or will
  • Birth certificate
  • Doctors names and phone numbers
  • Funeral, burial and/or cemetery instructions
  • Health and insurance cards
  • List of medications
  • Medical insurance plans and policy numbers
  • Organ donor card or information
  • Passports
  • Power of attorney documents
  • Social insurance/social security number

Wondering when you’ll have the time to plan for an emergency? There are fantastic resources available to assist you with advanced care planning, caregiver planning and fire and emergency plans, including checklists, templates and all the other aspects of developing an emergency plan for your senior parent.

Why not print off some of these checklists and bring them to your next family gathering? You’ll be happy you made the time to plan ahead when the unexpected happens, and even if it never does, you’ll rest easier knowing you’re prepared for those “what if’s” that plague most caregivers.

Do you have any other tips for creating an emergency plan for your aging parents? We’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments below.

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Kimberly Fowler