Getting Your House in Order


By Jane Meyers-Bowen, MN

Most of us don’t know much about senior living and care, until we are confronted with a parent whose physical, emotional or cognitive health changes. Be the change rapid or gradual- when the denial melts away and the recognition of the stark reality happens, families often find themselves overwhelmed with the decisions that need to be made and the changes that need to be implemented.  They often find themselves ill prepared to do the tasks at hand. Facing a whole new language, dealing with decisions that feel like- high stakes- as you are dealing with peoples’ lives with medical, legal, financial, and family ramifications.

Having worked in the senior industry for over 10 years and a former RN,  I have often thought it would be great to write a Caring for Senior Parents for Dummies Manuel  as a way to get your arms around this new role and set of responsibilities.

Long before an emergency… to get started- build a binder with some important information that they may only have or know.  Don’t wait. This could save you hours and hours of time and frustration and in some cases may prove to be critical information for health and well being. This information can be sub-divided into Vital Statistics, Medical, Financial, and Legal Information.

Vital Statistics. Recently I was helping a resident to tap into the VA Aid and Attendance Benefits that she qualified for from her second husband’s service to whom she was married to for 56 years.   The application requires a copy of the divorce decree of her first husband and the second marriage certificate of his wife’s second marriage.  Sounds easy but it’s not. The internet has increased accessibility and ease in ordering some documents, however. Start early,  gathering documents not only of your birth parents birth, marriage, divorce certificates but military discharge papers, naturalization and former marriages, divorces etc.

Medical Information.

Many times family think they know about their parents medical histories but often they learn that they don’t know ie. childhood illnesses and early history of surgeries.  A solid medical history, list of current medications, doctors-primary physician and specialists, dentist, eye doctor with phone numbers can be important during an emergency.  Copies of Medicare and secondary  insurance cards ,the Long Term Care Insurance Policy and Power of Attorney documents  and Polst Form. 

What are some of the decisions that you, your siblings, and parents must be prepared to make?

·        Is it time to change to doctors that are more attuned to geriatric needs?

·        What are your parents:

               Hospital Preference?

               Retirement Community and Assisted Living Preference?

·        Determine how to Fund care? Long Term Care Insurance?  Private Funds?  Military Programs?   Family Contribution?

·        Who will represent your parents interests- Medically?* And financially?  Do they have Power of Attorney Documents that comply with Washington State laws?

·        *What are your parents Advance Directives?  Things have changed in this department.  Medic One no longer looks at Living Wills. In the State of Washington EMT’s and Hospitals require a Physician Signed POLST form that defines the medical intervention wishes of a person. 

·        What is the Funeral Home Preference? Funeral and Burial  Preferences?

This information gathering process will greatly assist you and your family for being ready for what lies ahead.

If your church or community organization would like Garden Court to provide a Complimentary Lunch and Learn Presentation including  Getting Your House in Order Pamphlet give us a call 425 438-9080.