Life Hacks, Life Lessons

What to do before a Parent Dies Part III: Safetyproofing the home

A friend of a friend went through the aftermath of losing a parent not too long ago and after all the dust cleared, she sent around an email that covered a lot of bases. In this three part series I will share her advise along with what she learned. [At her request, I am preserving her anonymity.]

Okay Part I and II were a little Dark, so I’m going to try and close this series up on a slightly lighter note. What to do while at least one of your parents is around. Maybe Mommy needs a cabana boy or Pops wants that Mail-Order-Russian Bride (don’t judge). Do you have the money for it?

I can afford you and the Viagra

I can afford you and the Viagra

In all seriousness, elderly care is expensive and not something everyone has budgeted for sufficiently.


Do the health care math early

Neither Medicare nor private health insurance cover nursing home care. If a parent has been hospitalized and goes straight to transitional care for rehab, they can stay about 30 days at Medicare’s expense. Then, their care is either: 1) paid partially through long term care insurance, which most people don’t have; 2) covered by Medicaid if they are eligible (requires they have almost no income or assets and haven’t had any for 5 years or so); or 3) private pay.

Assess safety at home and out-and-about – regularly

– Driving: the DMV, AARP and AAA can help assess parents’ road safety. I had to sell my mom’s car out from under her to get her off the road (a moral obligation to protect her safety and others) but Dad willingly gave up driving.

– Steps: Install extra handrails, remove rugs; move regular task spaces to the main floor, put grab bars in the bathrooms, etc.

– Fire hazards: Remove stacks of papers, old paint and chemicals, old rags, etc. from the basement and garage

– Gas appliances: My mom lost her sense of smell, couldn’t smell gas leaks. Be safe and check them

– Walking: Remove throw rugs, invest in a cane “just in case” before it’s really needed.

– Snow/ice: Have snow and ice removal planned before the snow flies

– Using heavy equipment, e.g., lawnmowers

– Food safety: check the refrigerator regularly for food that’s spoiled or on the verge

Occupational therapists and Courage Center offer home safety audits. This can be helpful, especially if there’s disagreement about safety or parents’ true capabilities. Goodwill also has a “medical equipment” loaner program.

It’s a difficult thing to sit down and think about but the death of a parent is something that many of us will have to face at some point. Every family is different, especially in these Modern Family Times, so this post isn’t meant to be an all encompassing checklist. Rather, it is meant to get your thought process started on the path now so that when the time comes, you are more prepared in you time of need. Read Parts I and II here.

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