Family Action Plan

Dealing with incapacity or the care of an aging parent is a family undertaking. It involves input and planning from all of the affected family members: the person being taken care of, the caregiver(s) and all of the family members providing support.

As part of the planning for life and disability, it is important to develop a family action plan, so that everyone is on the same page if and when a family member needs long-term care. The following sections will discuss how to go about developing a family plan.


Start Talking About it Now

When everyone is healthy and can clearly articulate their wishes, have a family meeting with elderly relatives about the type of care they prefer. It’s a good idea for the siblings to discuss things beforehand. These conversations can often be emotional and may provide an opportunity for long-simmering family conflicts to rise to the surface. Initiating this conversation requires sensitivity and tact.

Don’t wait until a crisis forces the issue. Waiting can leave you scrambling to gather information, find services and get legal matters such as powers of attorney in place.

Frail in Body Does Not Mean Frail in Mind

When an adult child starts telling a parent what to do, the parent may react in anger over a fear of losing independence. Alternatively, many elderly parents will claim that they don’t need any help even when they do. When parents have problems with activities of daily living, outside assistance will be needed. Although issues with the activities of daily living may require assistance, these issues may not necessarily affect their independence.

Renovate or Relocate?

Most seniors report that they want to remain in their own home. While this is possible, it’s important to assess whether it’s realistic. Many older homes don’t adapt well to the needs of seniors. Stairs and narrow doorways can be a problem. However, you may be able to obtain a forgivable loan from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to adapt a home for a senior’s needs. Still, a well-timed move to a condominium or retirement home may help seniors maintain their independence longer.

Lighten the Load

Gradually introduce help into your parents’ lives—a housekeeping service or meals on wheels. Take advantage of these services so that your parents don’t feel that their lives are being taken over.

Tap into Resources

Another benefit of planning ahead is that you can do the research, understand the options and tap into the multitude of assistance that is available. This could include one or more of the following:

  • Your family physician
  • A social worker who can help you navigate the various agencies and support services available
  • Disease-related organizations, such as the Alzheimer Society, can also provide direction
  • Caregiver managers can be hired. They are experts that understand the various systems and can explore your options and do the leg work for you
  • Provincial government websites contain information about seniors’ long-term care

When is it Time to Help?

It can be difficult to determine when an aging parent or spouse really needs help. Some seniors are reluctant to ask for help and some children of seniors may have difficulty accepting the reality of the situation. Help is likely needed when the elderly have:

Problems with activities of daily living:

  • Continence
  • Eating
  • Getting in and out of bed
  • Bathing
  • Dressing

Problems with intermediate activities of daily living:

  • Using the telephone
  • Shopping
  • Preparing meals
  • Housekeeping
  • Doing laundry
  • Using transportation
  • Managing medications
  • Managing finances