How to care for elderly parents is a major concern of many Foreign Service families. Our concerns mirror those of other American families, but how to ensure good health care, find the right living situation, and handle legal questions is often complicated for Foreign Service families by being posted abroad. The distance involved makes it harder to get information and help so contingency planning is essential.
Often Foreign Service families only have short visits during R & R or on home leave and hate to spend the precious time with their parents talking about serious business or unpleasant possibilities. Or we may be caught up in hectic preparations for an overseas assignment and not want to take the time to do contingency planning with parents. While it is difficult to discuss the issues of aging, the family who has discussed the options and agreed on plans will be better able to handle whatever happens. It will be worth the time taken, if there is an emergency.
The ideal situation is when the parents take control of their own situations and make decisions in advance of an emergency. They should investigate the types of retirement options and decide which is most appropriate, make informed decisions about life-sustaining medical care, and make sure that documents, instructions, and powers of attorney are available to those who must take responsibility in an emergency. The American Association of Retired Persons recommends that elderly people use a document locator list (scroll to bottom of this page) to make sure their papers are in order. This list can then be given to the person(s) who will be responsible for them should an emergency arise. Going through the list with your parents should ensure that their wishes are understood.
Communicating with Elderly Parents
Talking with our elderly parents about their living situations and the possible need for change is not always easy. A successful conversation depends to an extent upon