Planning With Aging Parents

Helping Aging Parents

Today I’m thrilled to offer a guest post from Erin Kershaw, a Geriatric Care Manager who specializes in helping families make decisions about elderly life transitions. This is advice we all need to hear.

*      *     *     *      *

Are you concerned about your aging parents and uncertain how to help them? Maybe you are unaware of what resources are available, what legal documents should be in place, or what living options are the best to consider? As a Professional Geriatric Care Manager, I assist families struggling to find answers and plan for the future.

If you would like to help your aging parents, here is a checklist to get you started:

  • Legal – In addition to having an updated will, did you know it’s important your parents have both a Durable Medical and a Financial Power of Attorney (POA)? These documents authorize you or another designated person to make decisions on your parents’ behalf if they become incapable of making sound decisions. Closely related to the POAs is a Living Will. This allows your parents to communicate their wishes regarding which treatments they would or would not want should they become incapacitated.
  • Medical – It’s a good idea for you to have a list of your parents’ current doctors, medical conditions, and a list of all their medications. Be sure vitamins and herbal supplements are included as well, since these can interact with prescription medications. Review with your parents why they are taking each medication, and at what time(s) each day. Be sure your parents share an updated medications list with their doctors at every appointment. It’s even wise for them to bring the actual medicines in the original containers to these appointments. A gallon-sized Ziploc bag works well for this. If your parents use plastic pill boxes, available at drug stores, to sort their medications according to time of day they are to be taken, the original containers should be kept together in the bag anyway.
  • Housing – Ask your parents what their long-term living arrangement plans are. Some are open to moving into a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) or Assisted Living (AL) community. Others are adamant about remaining in their homes. Regardless of the plan, it’s important to recognize some level of assistance will be needed down the road. This conversation will help you if a parent’s ability to safely live independently becomes a concern.
  • Transportation – As we age, our ability to drive is impacted by cataracts, arthritis and other medical conditions. Driving at night may become difficult, but that doesn’t mean your parents need to be home bound. Community-based driving services, private-duty companions, and help from friends, family & religious communities may be good options to support independence while assuring safety.
  • Vital Information – Encourage your parents to keep a list of all investment, banking, and credit card account numbers, as well as details of mortgages/deeds/titles, medical and life insurance policies, birth certificates, marriage licenses and social security numbers. Ask your parents where this information is kept, and keep a copy if they are agreeable.

It’s best to have these conversations before there is a crisis. Your parents will be more willing to share their thoughts when they understand your goal is to understand and respect their wishes.

If you need some professional assistance to help guide you through the maze of elder care, you can visit to find a Geriatric Care Manager near you.

Geriatric Care Manager


Erin Kershaw
Geriatric Care Manager,
Brandywine Elder Care Management Services, LLC


photo credit: @notnixon via photopin cc

Active vs. Archive

When to archiveRecently, an article in Getting Organized Magazine referred to the principle of distinguishing between items that are active vs. those that should be archived. This is a fundamental concept which is important to embrace if you want to be organized.

Active refers to anything we use on a regular basis, such as every day or weekly. These belong in our easy-to-reach spaces (eye level shelves, nearby desk drawers, bottom level kitchen cabinets, etc.) 

Archive includes belongings we need to be able to find reliably when the need arises, whether periodically, seasonally or seldom. Archived items can be stored in locations that take a bit more work to get to, such as down the hall, on the top shelf, in the attic, etc.

Sounds simple, right? Yet sometimes we mistakenly fill our active workspaces with possessions that should be archived. Below is a chart showing examples of active vs. archive items, along with ideas for where to store them.

2 blue pens, 1 red pen, 1 highlighter, 2 pencils

➢ Keep in a cup on your desk or in the top drawer
The large boxes of pens, highlighters, and pencils from Staples

➢ Keep in an “office supplies” area, such as in a spare dresser or in a supplies box on a shelf in a closet.
Roll of paper towels

➢ Keep on a stand on the counter or hang from a paper towel holder in a convenient location in the kitchen.
The shrink-wrapped 12 pack from of paper towels from Costco

➢ Keep in a “bulk supply” storage area in the garage, a hall closet, or on a rack on the back of a door.
In-season slacks and blouses

➢ Hang in the most easily accessible part of the closet.
Out of season clothing

➢ Store in the “far reaches” of the closet or move to a spare closet or bins in the attic/under a bed.
Current files

➢ Keep in the file drawer at your desk or in a portable file box that you keep near your desk.
Old tax paperwork

➢ Box, label and store in a safe, dry space, such as in an attic, under the eaves, in a window seat, etc.
In-season sports gear

➢ Keep in a rack or on hooks near the door in the garage, mudroom or entry.
Out-of-season sports gear

➢ Hang up high in the garage or put it in a labeled bin that can be kept on a high shelf, in a shed, or even in an off-site storage area if space is really tight.
Charger for the phone, iPad, etc. that you currently use

➢ Set up a charging area where you can charge your devices each night. Invest in an extra phone charger for the car if you frequently on the road.
Cords and chargers for items you are holding onto for a future use, but aren’t actively using now

➢ LABEL THEM, and put them into a dry storage container on a high or low shelf. DISCARD cords for devices you no longer own.
The piece of artwork your child just brought home

➢ Display in an area for new & current pieces
Artwork you like, but that is 3 months old

➢ Remove from display, store in a large folder for review at the end of the school year. Or, photograph and upload it to be made into a photo book.
Cookware you regularly use.

➢ Store in the front of drawers/cabinets for easy access.

The turkey platter or meat grinder you use once a year.

➢ Store in a basement or in the back of a deep corner kitchen cabinet.

Get the idea? If you’ve got an area that is overcrowded and isn’t working, odds are you’ve got it filled with at least some items that could be removed to an archive location. Keeping your prime real estate filled with only active items could make a big difference in the functionality of your space.

What items do you think might be clogging up your active zones?

photo credit: Hindrik S via photopin cc

Jumpstart Holidays… October

Holiday Prep in OctoberThe secret to a smooth holiday season is starting early…. as in starting now, in October. This may seem ridiculous, but by knocking off some of the time-insensitive tasks, you can significantly lessen the stress that November and December can bring. To get a jumpstart, use the next couple of weeks to:

Discuss holiday plans

  • Decide if you will host any parties, and if so when?
  • Decide if you will attend any special events (concerts, shows, performances, etc.)
  • Buy any required tickets.
  • Reserve babysitting for high-demand December weekends.

Nail down travel details

  • Decide if you will be traveling or if anyone will be coming to you.
  • Purchase any necessary tickets (train, plane…)
  • Make necessary reservations (hotel, pet boarding, rental car, airport transport….)
  • Purchase hostess gifts now to be delivered at the appropriate time (most websites let you pick when you would like gifts delivered.)
  • Request/communicate special dietary needs to help with meal planning.

Complete Holiday Greeting Cards

  • Decide on a card design.
  • Finalize your card list and update addresses.
  • Order the appropriate number of cards and envelopes.
  • Write any personal notes or a family letter.
  • Address envelopes (by hand, print envelopes from the computer, or print labels.)
  • Buy stamps. (If you like holiday stamps, you can pre-order online at; they typically ship the 3rd week of October.)

Plan Food

  • Stock up on wine and spirits.
  • If you bake or give food gifts, start buying supplies (flour, sugar, butter, chocolate, etc.)
  • If you are hosting, begin making lists for items you will serve and ingredients you will need.
  • Prepare anything that you can freeze (easy go-to dinners, pie crusts, cookies, stock, etc.)

Get Ahead on Gifts

  • Make a list of everyone to whom you will be giving gifts (friends, family, teachers, service providers, work associates, charities, etc.)
  • Decide what you will be giving to each recipient (gift cards, cash, specific items)
  • Watch for sales, look online, and take advantage of the slow pre-season retail time.
  • Check your stash of wrapping supplies and supplement as needed (paper, tape, boxes, bows, ribbon.)
  • Wrap items and label gifts as you bring them in and put in a designated holding area.

Prepare Your Home

  • If you are hosting overnight guests, begin thinking about who will sleep where. Make sure to have sufficient clean bedding, towels, etc.
  • Polish any silver you will be using.
  • De-clutter and make space for holiday decorations (sort any stacks of paperwork, get rid of old magazines, give away unwanted clothing, clear off shelves, etc.)
  • Sort through toys and make space for any new items that might come in.
  • Give your house a thorough cleaning.

*     *     *     *     *

The holiday season should be enjoyed. While there is no eliminating the “hustle and bustle,” checking items off your list early is the best way to ensure a happy holiday.

What ideas do you have for getting a jump on the holidays?