More than 80% of Americans over the age of 65 are still comfortably aging in place within their own homes. As the adult child of elderly parents, you want them to continue enjoying the healthy, independent and active lifestyle that an at-home senior living experience affords them for as long as possible.

But their well being can change in an instant due to a serious fall, illness, or even financial problems. And the time to think about mom and dad’s senior living future is before that happens, and not afterwards. It’s not a pleasant topic to consider, but statistically most seniors will eventually require some type of in-home care for their daily activities. Helping them develop a game plan to address those unavoidable senior living issues requires careful advanced planning. As their adult child, here are 5 important questions to ask yourself when doing so.

1. Are Mom and Dad Really O.K.?

On the surface it appears that your aging parents are doing fine, but they may be trying to conceal their declining health from you. Here are some warning signs to look for:

  • Not keeping up with their personal hygiene
  • Recent diagnosis for a serious medical condition
  • House and yard work not getting done like before
  • Driving-related issues like several accidents or traffic violations
  • Unopened mail and unpaid bills lying around
  • Unwashed dishes piling up in the sink
  • Not much food in the home

If you’ve recently noticed some of these signs, your mom and dad may not be doing as well as you thought they were.

2. Do I Know Their Wishes?

Most adult children don’t know their parents’ future wishes because they simply have never asked them. And yes, it can be an uncomfortable discussion, but sit down and have a casual talk with mom and dad about their future anyway. For example, do they want to continue living at home? How are they doing financially? Ask them if driving is a problem. This would also be a good time to discuss your aging parents’ thoughts regarding future caregiving assistance and end-of-life care. Determine how much of their independence they are willing to give up if declining health becomes an issue. And finally, ask if they want a Power-of-Attorney (POA) to manage their affairs in the event they can’t any longer. You and your parents will probably all feel relieved once these topics are out in the open.

3. Are Their Finances Sound?

Now it’s time to talk in more depth with your parents about their financial independence, and whether they’ve considered those aspects of senior living.

Focus on these key points:

  • Asset and investment protection
  • Paying for future medical costs and care. For example, do they have long-term care insurance policies?
  • Assigning a family member as POA or using an outside attorney or certified financial planner to manage their affairs
  • Their will and any trusts they’ve set up
  • Avoiding phone and Internet scammers who are looking to defraud them
  • Assistance with bill paying and online banking
  • A household budget
  • Accessing their important financial paperwork in an emergency

You and your siblings should reassure your parents that it’s their money, and that you are not looking to take it from them.

4. How can I Help?

Once you’ve determined what your parents’ future wishes are, now it’s time to offer your support.

Here’s how to offer support:

  • Providing transportation for them
  • Housecleaning, laundry and yard work
  • Assisting with meals and grocery shopping
  • Giving them a crash course on using the Internet
  • Doing repairs around their home

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