Five Tips for Helping Your Divorced, Aging Parent

My parents have been divorced for over three decades, and my mom has been very self-sufficient until recently. After a few scary instances with her heart and then a fall, we both decided that she should move from her home in California to Roswell to be closer to my family and me. I am glad that she will be closer—it was awful trying to help from so far away—but I am anxious about her living here. We have not lived in the same town and have only seen each other three times a year for the last 28 years. In addition to the change in our relationship, I am worried about her finances. She lives off of her Social Security check and a small pension. She has very little in savings. Where do we begin?

You and your mom are not alone in facing this situation. According to 2015 data from the National Center for Health Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau, 10% of adults aged 50 and older are divorced (that’s an increase from 5% in 1990). Among women, 12% are divorced. This means, there are many women facing your mom’s situation. Without a spouse to depend on, many divorced older adults turn to their children (and if there are no children, dealing with aging issues can get difficult, and we offered some tips in another recent blog). So, how do you handle this situation?

1. First, begin with your needs. Consider what you, your family, and your lifestyle can handle. Is moving into your home an option for your mom? Are you available to attend doctors’ appointments and to handle daily medical issues? How many times a week would you like to see your mom? You have some say in how her move impacts your life.

2. Then communicate. Start by communicating with your family about your plans and your mom’s needs. Share with them your priorities, your worries, and your ideas and then get their feedback. Families can handle a tremendous amount of stress when they talk and work together, and caring for an aging parent can become very stressful. We have seen many families suffer and marriages almost fall apart when an aging parent becomes part of the family system. Talking to each other can help prevent this. There are no easy solutions to making it all work—life is not easy, especially when you are caring for an aging parent.

3. Remember to communicate with your mom. This may seem obvious, but concerned family members contact us daily to discuss their parents’ issues before even talking to their aging loved one. Have you told her your thoughts, plans, fears and boundaries? Has she shared with you her wishes, anxieties, needs, and plans? These are difficult conversations for sure (and impossible in some families), but they are so important. Offer assistance gently by asking questions like, “What can I do that would be most helpful for you?” Where does she want to live? How does she plan to meet her needs? What role does she want you to play? Ask for what she needs, including what resources you can gather for her. Ask her to share information on her estate planning documents, financial accounts and medical history. You can use the Hurley Elder Care Law Planning Guide to help you record important information.

4. Research the resources your area. Roswell offers many different housing options including regular apartments, single-family homes, active older adult communities, independent living communities, assisted living communities, personal care homes, and nursing homes. Which one is right for your mom? Speaking with a geriatric social worker, aging life care specialist, elder attorney or placement agency may be a good place to start. Roswell residents have access to the North Fulton Senior Services  a tremendous resource for older adults. And the Aging and Disability Resource Connection is part of the Atlanta Area Agency on Aging and can be helpful in finding resources.

5. Execute new documents for Georgia. Georgia residents are encouraged to have an updated Georgia Advance Directive for Healthcare. You can download the form here and have your mom complete it once she is in Georgia. You will also want to execute a new Power of Attorney for Finances that meets the Uniform Power of Attorney Act that was passed in 2017. For other important tips on things to consider when she moves to Georgia, download our helpful checklist here.

Caring for an aging parent is almost never easy, but you do not have to do it alone. The experienced team at Hurley Elder Care Law can help you and your mom get started on this new transition. For a complimentary phone consultation, please call us at (404) 843-0121.