The holiday season feels different this year because of the pandemic, but we hope you’re able to stay connected with your loved ones—even from afar. If you’re checking in on your parents or other aging family members for the first time in a while, pay close attention to their health. Even on a Zoom call, you can look for changes in behavior, mood, and appearance. Has dad lost weight? Is Grandma starting to show signs of dementia? And what should you do if you notice problematic changes?

At Better Health Advisors, we recognize how challenging and emotional it can be for the whole family when aging family members experience health problems. If you find yourself responsible for helping an aging loved one with their healthcare decisions, here are nine tips from BHA to get you started:

  1. Determine and continually reevaluate the most appropriate care setting, including options such as home care, assisted living, and nursing homes.
  2. Identify the primary decision makers in the event that your loved one cannot advocate for him or herself. Appoint a health care proxy.
  3. Arrange for a top geriatrician to be the “hub” of their overall care plan. This will help in coordination with other specialists.
  4. Understand your loved one’s health insurance coverage options, so that you can maximize their benefits using Medicare and private insurance.
  5. Revisit and discuss all aspects of financial planning, from paying for long-term care to estate planning.
  6. Make time for mental health. Does your loved one have plans in place to socialize safely during the pandemic? Schedule regular check-ins, and encourage other people in their life to do the same.
  7. Manage wellness concerns. Ask how they are eating and sleeping. If you sense that there may be a problem, bring it up with their geriatrician.
  8. Have a plan in place for emergency care. Technology such as medical alert systems can help simplify planning and communication.
  9. Keep in mind the needs of the caregiver. Self-care is essential to being an effective advocate for your loved one.

In matters of health, having someone outside the family to assist and provide decision support is invaluable. The team at Better Health Advisors understands that every family is different and has unique needs. For guidance on choosing a nursing home, arranging home care, selecting the best insurance plan, or ensuring that your loved one’s healthcare goals are aligned with their financial ones, reach out to us.