News Archive 2009-2018

How To Assist Aging Parents Archives

Illustration: Hanna Barczyk

By Kate Adams ’89

First of all, this is not easy. Collaboration, stubbornness, compromise, and love will all come into play. My strongest advice is to be proactive—there are many more choices that way. Getting help in the home, modifying a home, finding alternative transportation—initial safeguards are much easier than dealing with a fall down the stairs or a car accident. Start conversations early, keep a sense of humor, and make it clear that independence is important, but so is safety.

Things to do and talk about:

  • Power of attorney, health care proxy, and advanced directives (available on most state websites). I also recommend the “Five Wishes” document—a legal document that combines a living will and a health care proxy. I think it’s best to use an elder law attorney, even for a few meetings, for documents and planning, because of their greater expertise in legal services for aging issues.
  • Financial planning. Eight out of ten people will need long-term care. The average cost of home care is $32 an hour. Average monthly costs are high—assisted living: $5,400; memory care: $6,800; nursing home: $11,200.
  • Long-term care insurance. Some policies cover home care, some do not. Some only cover nursing facilities. Some will pay family caregivers. Some have different daily limits for home care versus facility care. Most have a maximum daily amount and a maximum lifetime amount.
  • If staying home is strongly desired, talk about a long-term plan. Living on one level? Yard maintenance? Trips to medical appointments? Ease of active lifestyle? (All research points to exercise as the best medicine for physical and cognitive health.)
  • Consider hiring an aging life care expert for an assessment. A professional will look at the big picture: medical, social, financial, home safety, wellness, family dynamics, and formal and informal care providers.
  • If independent or assisted living is part of the discussion, research, make visits, and get on waiting lists. Senior housing is in short supply. An aging life care expert can steer you in the right direction with that, too—they often know the pros and cons of most facilities in their region.
  • Use these online resources:,, and the Area Agency on Aging for your county.


Kate Adams ’89 is owner of Aging Excellence.

This piece first appeared in the Winter 2018 edition of Bowdoin magazine.

One thought on “How To Assist Aging Parents

  1. Raymond Lavine

    Having a funeral and end of life plans is essential. Having the conversation with your family about your life exit is helpful to those you love and who love you. It will help them to help you.

    Before we die, we may become frail or have chronic health issues. Without a plan it is called a crisis and few of us are prepared. It is as important as end of life planning.

    There are 3 reasons to have a plan:

    1. The Financial Cost
    2. Emotional Cost
    3. What is the worst case scenario if not fixed?

    Waiting for a crisis without a plan is not helpful and disrupts the lives of your family and friends. The people you invited into your life.

    Have the conversation with a competent agent or your wealth advisor to refer you to an agent so you have sufficient information to make an informed decision.

    Too much time is wasted about ‘quotes.’ LTC benefits is not about quotes it is about having a predictable stream of income so your money and assets support your lifestyle and commitments now and in the future.

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