Are your clients worried about their aging parents during the pandemic? How can you help them?
Dr. Sandra Timmermann
Now that states and cities are relaxing some of the COVID-19 restrictions, people of all ages — including older people — are beginning to go to grocery stores, restaurants and hair salons. That can be a worry for adult children of aging parents, along with concerns about their general health and financial well-being. Here are 10 tips to support your clients as they figure out how to be supportive to their mom or dad who are living at home independently.
- Offer ideas on how to communicate
Your clients may be giving orders to their parents to stay at home, and that won’t work very well. Talk to them about the best way to communicate. For example, asking probing questions works better than telling someone what to do. Encourage them to communicate with their parents as a concerned partner; they may have more influence that way.
- Suggest that clients assess their parents’ health
If the parents have underlying health conditions or show any signs of cognitive decline, it is right for adult children to be on high alert. They should be more forceful about staying at home and checking up on them to make sure they are safe. However, if the parents are healthy and are following recommended guidelines, suggest to your clients they can probably back off and let their parents make their own decisions.
- Give clients some practical suggestions
Adult children can make their parents’ lives easier by helping out with simple things, like setting up online accounts for them for food delivery or sending them items they might need, such as masks or hand sanitizers. The parents may be able to do these things on their own, but they will probably be grateful.
- Encourage clients to get their parents connected
Some older persons are tech savvy, but others are less so, even if they own laptops and iPhones. Encourage your clients to be patient and to take time to show their parents how to set up Zoom, Skype and Facetime so they can do family calls and talk more frequently with grandchildren. They can also teach them to access sites that might be of interest to them, from religious services to online exercise classes.
- Stress the importance of frequent contact
Your clients will have more peace of mind if they check in with their parents frequently to see how they are doing and to be tuned in for any red flags. Social isolation could become a problem, and they should have their antenna up for any signs of depression, alcohol abuse, nutrition deficiencies, self-neglect or health issues that may have cropped up and be ready to make interventions if needed.
- Find out if their parents have legal papers in order
If their parents do become infected by the virus and end up in the hospital, adult children need to know if they have executed living wills, medical powers of attorney and other legal documents. The pandemic gives your clients an opportunity to open a discussion with their parents about what to do in an emergency and get contact information for their attorney, their physicians and their financial professionals.
- Encourage clients to be alert to parents’ financial difficulties
Some parents may be at financial risk because of the economic downturn. They could be in danger of missing credit card or mortgage payments, or become unable to pay bills for utilities or property taxes. Make some suggestions, if necessary, about ways to tap into government programs set up to provide a safety net.
- Help clients make sure parents are not victims of elder fraud
Fraudulent calls and emails are on the rise during the pandemic, as are individuals selling services or asking for donations. Clients should find out if their parents have been contacted lately and they should encourage them to be vigilant.
- Encourage your clients tune-in to their parents’ worldview
Their parents may be scared and then your clients will need to reassure them. Or they may be ready to take some calculated risks and your clients will need to listen and understand why. Tell them not to over-worry and remind them their parents have lived a long time and have experience that will guide them as they navigate the pandemic.
- Take the opportunity to help clients plan for their own retirement
Your clients probably gained some insights about their own aging while they were worrying about the health and safety of their parents. The pandemic may have triggered some thoughts about long-term care and what they would hope for from their own children if they needed care. They are probably thinking once more about job security and finances if a pandemic strikes again, and whether they should postpone their projected retirement date. With so many outside activities curtailed and more free time at home, this is a perfect time for you and your client to make or to reevaluate their financial and retirement plans.