Most Baby Boomers Lack a Plan to Care for Parents

July 22, 2011

A majority of Baby Boomers say they are likely to become caregivers for their parents, but only half can name any medications their parents take, a new survey shows.

The survey of 600 adults ages 45 to 65, conducted for the Home Instead Senior Care network, also found:

31% don’t know how many medications their parents take.
34% don’t know whether their parents have a safe deposit box or where the key is.
36% don’t know where their parents’ financial information is located.
“The majority of caregivers we work with have done no advance planning,” says Jeff Huber, president of Home Instead Senior Care, a company that provides non-medical care services. “It is not important until it’s urgent. So much stress and uncertainty down the road can be prevented.”

Lack of planning can lead to serious complications when decisions need to be made quickly, says palliative care nurse practitioner Mimi Mahon, an associate professor at George Mason University in Virginia. “It’s vitally important to plan ahead and have these conversations with parents, or families can act out of fear and make mistakes when emergencies arise.”

Prescription drugs are of particular concern. In the survey, 49% couldn’t name a single drug their parents took. Ask parents about their medications and, if necessary, do research, experts say. Find out the dose, what it’s for, who prescribed it and why. People 65 and older account for about a third of all medications prescribed in the U.S., according to the National Institutes of Health, and older patients are more likely to have long-term and multiple prescriptions, which could lead to unintentional misuse.

“It’s kind of a never-ending process for caregivers,” says Sandy Markwood, head of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, part of the Department of Health and Human Services. “It gets further complicated when there is more than the family practitioner. A parent might have several specialists. It’s a lot for a caretaker to keep up.”

Markwood says the Administration on Aging, also under HHS, has been encouraging better record-keeping by seniors and stronger communication between seniors and caretakers since Hurricane Katrina. “Then you had a situation when seniors were evacuated without their medications and no one knew what medications they were on,” Markwood says. “Doctors had to start from scratch.”

One must-have answer for caretakers: What drugs can parents go without and which ones must be taken on schedule. For instance, blood pressure and anti-depressant medications cannot be missed, Mahon says.

The bottom line, she says, is being a staunch advocate for your parents’ health care starts with “having conversations and putting plans in place.”

Source: June 20, 2011