It can happen suddenly. A health issue or accident may occur and you wind up being the sole caregiver for your elderly parent.


Many in this situation find themselves unprepared, but it doesn't have to be that way.

"First, it's important for people to contact their local area agency on aging," said Terry Wilson, Caregiver Specialist for the State Department of Health and Senior Services. "We have 21 county agencies in New Jersey. The offices have network partners, faith-based organizations and volunteer organizations and they can help with a number of things including outreach, education, counseling and caregiver support."

The key is to prepare as much as you can ahead of time. "When your elderly loved one is in good health and able to communicate, it's best to find out what their plans and wishes are for the future. They may start to need help driving or paying their bills or making medical decisions. Ideally, they should talk to you before there's a need for an emergency," said Wilson. "It's important to find out whether they have a living will or a financial planner. It would be helpful to have an advanced care directive in place because if something were to happen, at least you would have a plan in place."

There are many questions that will arise in the process of preparing. "How do I apply for Medicare? How do I find and assisted living or nursing facility or adult day center? What kinds of things can we do to plan for the long term care of Mom or Dad? If there's a safety issue, who do I contact? So, there are a number of steps you can take beforehand," said Wilson.

Find more information online or find out more about your local area agency on aging by calling 877-222-3737.


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