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5 Questions Everyone With Aging Parents Needs To Ask

09/17/2013 07:57 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2013

We're not getting any younger -- neither are our parents. The older we get, the more we grow concerned about how old they're getting, and with that comes worry about 'what to do with mom and dad.'

The time to talk to aging parents about their future care is now, not when they need that care. More than 81 percent of people age 65 and older still live in their own homes, yet their ability to remain independent, healthy and active can change in a instant. Don't wait for a crisis to talk to your parents about what they plan to do.

Here are five questions everyone over 50 with aging parents should ask themselves now:

How are Mom and/or Dad REALLY doing?
Are they struggling to do everyday chores, is driving becoming a hazard, do they have medical conditions you don't know about? Are they getting enough socialization and exercise to stay healthy?

Do they need help?
Seniors often hesitate to ask their children for the help they need, so ask them for an honest assessment of their needs. And ask yourself: how will you balance their needs with the demands of your children, your job, your life?

How can I help?
A quick visit once a week may not be enough. Figure out how you might help. Driving them to a medical appointment? Checking on that leaky faucet? Giving them a quick lesson on how to use email or Facebook?

Have they looked at other living options, besides staying at home?
Some seniors are reluctant to give up their home, but can no longer handle the costs and maintenance involved in keeping up a private residence. Have they looked into senior living options that would provide support and freedom, like a Continuing Care Retirement Community? They may not be aware of the myriad of choices beyond moving in with you or going to a traditional nursing home.

Do I know their wishes?
Don't assume you know how your parents want to deal with end-of-life care. Do they have living wills? Where is their medical paperwork?

Asking yourself these questions now is a lot easier than when there's a crisis. Most adult children delay or avoid altogether an honest discussion with parents about senior care options, until a fall or other medical calamity creates very limited options.

Justine Vogel, CPA, is President and CEO of the non-profit RiverWoods of Exeter, one of New England's most successful Continuing Care Retirement Communities. A graduate of Rutgers University School of Business with a B.S. in Accounting, her tenure at RiverWoods began as the Director of Accounting, with growth into the role of CFO in 1997, COO in 2005 and President/CEO in 2007. Her prior experience includes several years in auditing and financial analysis with Arthur Andersen & Co., Ernst & Young, and Chubb Life Insurance Company. She is a certified public accountant in the state of New Jersey and serves as a Trustee and Treasurer of the Board of Directors for Leading Age of Maine and New Hampshire. A frequent speaker at local, regional and national industry conferences, her topics include the senior care industry, strategic management, growth planning, culture development and financial oversight.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

7 Tips For Caregivers