Articles for Parents

Everything listed under: planning

  • Post Featured Image

    How to Care for Independent Aging Parents

    If you're in the midst of raising children or grandchildren, managing a career and caring for an aging parent or relative, you are not alone. In fact, a 2012 Pew Research report found that about half of all U.S. adults in their 40s or 50s have a parent age 65 or older and are raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child.

    When our parents have strong desires to remain independent and we have strong desires to care for them, it can be a real challenge.

    “I always like to focus on the things that are necessary for aging parents to stay as independent as possible,” says Amy Boulware, (LAP, MSW) Geriatric and Special Needs care manager for Chambliss Law. “The desire to remain independent is so strong, sometimes parents are willing to go to great lengths to keep up the appearance they are doing well on their own. I call this ‘malicious independence.’ They know they aren’t doing well, but they keep it from their family members. The sad thing is, often, they have already lost their independence because they are isolating themselves and not getting to do the things they enjoy doing.”

    Getting older and more fragile is a hard thing to deal with, but things do happen as we age. Boulware believes the goal of providing good care to our parents is to avoid making decisions in the midst of a crisis.

    “If we can help parents think about the things that are becoming more difficult for them such as going to the grocery store, cooking or keeping the house clean, then we can develop a plan to remove some of the burdens and help them stay as independent as possible,” Boulware says. 

    “Most people do estate planning, but few think about doing elder care planning,” Boulware shares. “Inevitably, something happens and then you are thrown into making quick decisions.”

    So, how do you have that hard conversation? Boulware suggests that you begin the process by asking questions like:

    • What are the things that are important to you as you age?
    • How can we work together to help you have quality care later in life? What does that look like for you? 
    • What can you afford?
    • What are the lifelong behaviors or details that make you tick that would be very important to know? For example, do you have a nightly routine, always have a certain snack, use something to help you sleep at night, etc.? There may be routines and rituals that you know nothing about that if discontinued, could cause agitation, fear or frustration for your parent. 
    • Who would you like to designate to make decisions should you become unable to do so? When do you think would be a good time to take care of that? 
    • If we see you struggling, how would you like us to handle that?

    If you try to have the conversation and your parents won’t let you, seek help from a trustworthy third party.

    This conversation in particular is often one we put off because it’s just plain uncomfortable and nobody wants to think about the end of life. Mapping out a plan ahead of time can pave the way for smoother transitions in the future. It can also strengthen your family relationships because the choices your parents make are truly theirs and it will be easier to honor them by following through with their wishes.

    This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on May 5, 2019.

  • Post Featured Image

    8 Ways to Manage Family Time

    The beginning of the school year, for some, actually feels more like a new year. Families are getting acquainted with new schools, new teachers and new schedules, not to mention a buffet line of new opportunities for extracurricular activities. If parents aren’t careful, they will have kids involved in three different activities, going in opposite directions. As a result, what little family time there was is now non-existent.

    How many times have you found yourself grabbing the kids from school, running by a fast-food place for dinner and heading out to practice with one child trying to finish homework in the car and the other throwing on their practice clothes? Many parents have resigned themselves to believing this is life as we know it and the goal is to survive.

    Before your family life becomes a runaway train, consider what is best for your family when it comes to afterschool activities and the amount of time you spend together. Many loud voices will tell you all the things your child needs to participate in for future success. Certainly, extracurricular activities can make your child’s life richer, but they can also create additional stress and anxiety for the entire family.

    When you rarely sit down for a meal together or have the opportunity to connect, relationships can suffer. Plus, trying to keep up can be exhausting. So, how much is too much?

    Here are some suggestions from kidshealth.org to help you manage activities and family connectedness:

    • Set ground rules ahead of time. Plan on kids playing one sport per season or limit activities to two afternoons or evenings during the school week.
    • Know how much time things require. Does your child realize soccer practice is twice a week or more, right after school? Then there's the weekly game. Will homework suffer?
    • Set priorities. School comes first. If kids have a hard time keeping up academically, they may need to drop an activity.
    • Know when to say no. If your child is already active but really wants to take on another activity, discuss what needs to be dropped to make room for something new.
    • Stay organized with a calendar. Display it on the refrigerator so everybody can stay up-to-date. And if you find an empty space on the calendar, leave it alone! Everyone needs a chance to just do nothing.
    • Even if kids sign up for the season, let them miss one or two sessions. Sometimes hanging out on a beautiful day is more important than going to one more activity, even if you've already paid for it.
    • Try to balance activities for all of your kids — and yourself. It hardly seems fair to expend time and energy carting one kid to activities, leaving little time for another. Take time for yourself and spend time together as a family.
    • Create family moments. Plan a few dinners when everyone can be home at the same time.

    Family time is a precious commodity, and your children will grow up in the blink of an eye. Plan now to set your family priorities, avoid unnecessary activities and be intentional about spending time together as a family. 

  • Post Featured Image

    4 Tips for Handling the College-to-Home Transition

    When college students return home for breaks after spending 10 months basically without a curfew, not having to answer to anybody about their comings and goings, and no chores, the homecoming has the potential to be a bit rocky, especially for freshmen.

    “We weren’t exactly sure what to expect when our daughter came home from her freshman year,” says Kim Clausen. “She was used to being on her own. When I asked where she was going and when she would be back, I got looks like, ‘Why do you need to know that?’ We had to re-acclimate to her being home and she had to get used to being with us. We all survived, but it took some adjustment on everybody’s part. Things were definitely different.”

    Planning Ahead for Adjustments Can Help

    Like so many families, the Clausens had settled into a new routine with their two remaining teens at home. Excited about their daughter’s return, they honestly didn't think a lot about making adjustments as they brought her back into the fold.

    “If we had it to do over again, we would have a conversation prior to her returning home about expectations, schedules and the like,” Clausen says. “When she is away she can do what she wants, but when we are trying to juggle work, the schedules of our other two teens and life in general, we need everybody to be on the same page.”

    Clara Sale-Davis also found herself in the same position as the Clausen family. Before her daughter came home, she thought about how to make the transition easier.

    “I remember when I went home for the summer,” says Sale-Davis. “I thought I was going to be running around doing whatever I wanted. Mom would wash my clothes and have dinner ready. I quickly found out I was delusional. While I am honored that my daughter wants to come home for the summer, I wanted to be proactive with her so she would know what to expect.”

    Sale-Davis let her daughter know that while they wanted home to be a safe haven, it would not be a resort. She encouraged her daughter to find a job and told her that chores would be awaiting her. She also discussed what seemed reasonable for everyone when it comes to staying out late with friends.

    “I thought it would be better to have the conversation ahead of time,” Sale-Davis says. “We talked over the phone and I could hear her eyes rolling. It isn’t that I don’t trust her. We just don’t need to worry unnecessarily.”

    Here are some suggestions for making it a pleasant break for everyone.

    • Establish expectations. Know your priorities, communicate them clearly and discuss what is and is not negotiable. Be clear about what will happen if they do not adhere to your expectations.
    • Don’t expect your young adult to have the same mindset they had when they left for college. They have been making decisions for themselves, so encourage them to continue to do so while respecting the house rules.
    • Choose your battles carefully. If you are encouraging them to make their own decisions, realize that they may not make the same decisions you would make for them.
    • Take this time to help your college student understand what it will be like when they are finally out on their own, paying rent, bills and doing their own laundry.

    The transition to home from college can be interesting, to say the least. While young adults are in the process of becoming more independent, they still rely on their parents in many ways - including providing a roof over their head during the breaks - not to mention paying college tuition.

  • Post Featured Image

    Helping People Finish Life Well

    Several years ago Carol Courtney found herself in an interesting position. Her mother called to say that her father was in the hospital due to breathing problems. As a healthcare professional, all kinds of things were running through Courtney’s mind.

    “I knew he had been having episodes where he would black out, but not pass out. This made me think he was having respiratory issues,” says Courtney. “As time went by and I kept asking my mother for information, I realized she did not know the names of my father’s doctors nor did she have any idea what was happening other than he had breathing issues.”

    As a nurse, Courtney knew that this lack of information was not uncommon for people who are unfamiliar with healthcare.

    “Most people are intimidated by doctors, are often afraid to ask questions or don’t know the right questions to ask,” Courtney says. “My goal was to get my father out of the hospital. In spite of trying to coach my mom from a distance on the kinds of questions she should ask, what to say and how to get to know the physicians, when my father was discharged she did not know his diagnosis or the care that would be required to keep him at home.”

    At this point, Courtney decided to take action. She wrote down every question she had before calling the physician. She knew from experience that if you ask the right questions you will get the answers.

    The key is knowing what to ask.

    "From my conversation with the physician I learned my dad had terminal pulmonary fibrosis and he was expected to live approximately three months,” Courtney says. “I was the one who told my parents about pulmonary fibrosis, what the coming days would probably look like and what we needed to do to make this time as pleasant as possible.”

    This is when things tend to get tough for families, explains Courtney. The stress can fracture a family’s ‘fault lines’ and lead to a falling out - right at the time when the dying person needs their support.

    “I knew we had a very short amount of time to do what I considered important business,” Courtney says. “My mom emailed all of Dad’s relatives and friends and explained that he was terminally ill. She invited all of them to come for a visit as soon as possible. My dad died 11 weeks after being discharged from the hospital. But, in those 11 weeks, 32 people came to see my father. We laughed, cried, shared stories and truly enjoyed each other’s company.”

    Courtney's sons brought their grandfather tons of chocolate when they came to visit him. He loved chocolate, but hadn’t been allowed to have it because of high cholesterol. They had a serious party!

    “When my father died, his funeral was truly a celebration of his life,” Courtney says. “This whole experience changed my focus in life. I realized I was passionate about helping people finish life well. My goal is for people to have reconciliation and celebration before they die.”

    Most people don’t want to think about dying or planning what they want that process to look like. That includes arranging their funeral.

    “Talking about the end of life and what you want it to look like with your spouse and children is revolutionary,” Courtney says. “I encourage people to plan and communicate about what they want and how their family and friends can help. They can take a methodical and thorough approach, and end life well.”

  • Post Featured Image

    Is Creating a Will Important?

    Most people live as if tomorrow will come for sure. But what if something tragic happened and you were no longer here? Who would inherit your house, your collectibles from one generation to the next, or your pictures?

    “Most people assume that if they are married and don’t have a will, all of their assets will automatically go to their spouse,” says attorney Harry Cash. “This is not necessarily the case. If you don't have a will or don't hold all of your assets jointly, the state determines where your assets go. If one spouse dies and there are children, the surviving spouse gets at least one third of the deceased spouse’s assets, but the deceased spouse may have intended for everything to go to his or her spouse at death.”

    A RocketLawyer.com survey found that a stunning 50 percent of American parents do not have a will. Of those age 55-64 (the baby boomers), 41 percent do not have a will.

    The top reasons for not having a will were:

    • Just haven’t gotten around to making one;

    • No sense of urgency;

    • Didn’t think they needed a will; and

    • They don’t have a will because they don’t want to think about death.

    “This is not something you want to leave to chance and hope for the best,” Cash asserts. “A will allows you to specifically state what you want to happen to your assets when you pass away. If you have children, you have the opportunity to say who will care for them until they are 18. You also can state specifically that if you pass away and your spouse is still living, all of your assets go to your spouse. Even though people don’t like to think about death, this document could save your loved ones from a lot of angst.”

    What you need to create a will:

    • A list of significant assets.

    • Documentation of employment benefits statements, insurance policies, deeds to real property, partnership and business agreements.

    • Determine who will inherit your property.

    • Choose an executor for your estate. Every will must name someone to serve as executor, to carry out the terms of the will. Let that person know you are naming them to perform this task.

    • Identify a guardian for your children. If your children are under 18, decide who you want to raise them in the event that you and their other parent can't. You should also pick someone who can manage your children's property.

    • Identify other decision-makers to carry out your health and money choices for you if you cannot.

    “The last thing a grieving family member needs is to deal with uncertainty when it comes to dealing with the estate of a deceased family member,” says Cash. “Preparing a will doesn’t take long and could be the single most important thing you do for your family.”