They want to stay independent. You can help.

Boomers Helping Aging Parents Live Independently

by Gary Foreman

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Your parents want the independence and privacy of being in their own house. They want food from their own kitchens, their own furnishings, and their own routines. Yet, the older they get, the more you're finding that they are unable to complete the everyday tasks necessary to keep up with a house. Maybe you've discovered they're having difficulty keeping up with yard care. Or maybe you've noticed more dirty dishes in the sink or dirty laundry in the hamper. You want them to be happy in their own home. Yet you may be worried that they aren't able to keep up with the chores and tasks of living independently. So how do you balance their wants with their needs?

1. An Honest Conversation

First, set up a quiet comfortable environment and have a simple conversation with them about how they are doing. Make sure they feel at ease talking about the topic, and try to ensure they don't feel threatened, defensive, or sad. If they know you want to help them, but not control them, they might be more apt to talk about any issues they are having. Some parents also don't want to feel like a burden, so if that is the case in your family, try and ease these feelings. Consider asking questions about specific household chores and tasks so that you can get an idea of how your parents are handling these different responsibilities.

2. Household Assessment

Try and do your own assessment of how the household tasks are being completed. Is there a lot of dirty laundry? Is the house getting a bit dusty more frequently? Has it been weeks since the hedges were clipped and the lawn was cut? Have they forgotten to pay a bill or write a check? These types of responsibilities seem like second nature to many of us. They're just part of the day-to-day tasks of running a home or a family, but to an aging parent, the responsibilities may be unintentionally forgotten or too physically demanding to do frequently.

3. Covering the Basics

As you are assessing, take note of the basic areas where your parents may need extra help. Maybe they need some extra assistance with the cleaning and the laundry, and if that is the case, then consider a visit with them where you also spruce up the house periodically or you bring laundry back and forth when you visit. Or even consider hiring trustworthy help to periodically check in, clean up the house, and do the laundry.

If they need help with lawn care, reach out to family and see if you can set up a schedule where you can alternate taking care of the yard. Some times of the year, the yard will likely need more or different maintenance than others, but if you divide up the work, it won't seem like much extra. Or if you have the means, consider hiring a lawn service or a trustworthy neighbor to come by, cut the grass, and clean up the yard on a regular basis.

If your parents are forgetting to pay bills and send checks more frequently, consider setting up their bank account so you can also sign. Then you can take over some of their bill paying, so payments arrive on time and bills won't be forgotten.

Lastly, if you've noticed that your parents have stopped cooking or making hot meals as frequently, then consider a program like Meals on Wheels. Meals on Wheels is the nation's oldest and largest senior nutrition community organization. Depending on your location, Meals on Wheels offers community meals and even delivery in some place to seniors who have limited mobility.

4. Considering the Costs

As you begin to create your assistance plan, keep the costs in mind. If you are doing much of the work yourself, your costs may be low, but your time will need to be readjusted. If you are hiring out some help, then be sure to figure these costs into your parents' budgets or your own budget. And if you have others in your family that are willing to help, then make sure you set up a plan for costs and payment.

5. Periodic Reevaluation

Lastly, try to set up periodic opportunities to reevaluate what help your parents might need. Maybe they only need help with the yard now, but in six months, they may need a little help with laundry. Ask them every so often how things are going and make sure they know you are there to help make things easier.

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There are ways to balance both your parents' desire to live independently, and meeting their household needs. Hopefully these tips will provide ideas for ways to start up a conversation about both comfort and assistance.

Gary Foreman

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar website and newsletters in 1996. He's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money, and Gary shares his philosophy of money here. You can follow Gary on Twitter. Gary is also available for audio, video or print interviews. For more info see his media page.

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