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Most entrepreneurs and business owners I know are pretty much juggling 18 balls in the air at once – fulfilling many different roles and implementing several plans to keep their businesses moving forward. Businesses often start with a detailed plan to grow and good entrepreneurs know that these plans need to be reviewed and adjusted often, just in case the market changes or the business grows quickly.

But what happens to your business when you are faced with the responsibility of caring for your elderly parent? Have you ever stopped to consider the effect on your business if mom falls or if dad needs to rehab after a knee replacement?

As an entrepreneur, leadership and the tendency to “take charge” runs in your veins. You also probably have the ability to dictate your own schedule. For these reasons and more, it often falls on the entrepreneur sibling to become the “default caregiver”. The cost of caring for an elderly parent while simultaneously running a business can be astronomical.

According to a study from the MetLife Mature Market Institute and the National Alliance for Caregiving, the cost in lost revenue due to decreased employee productivity because of caregiving for aging parents adds up to $33 billion dollars a year. And the population is aging. The number of Americans over the age of 65 is growing in leaps and bounds. In 1980, there were 25.5 million Americans over the age of 65. By 2000 that number had moved up to 35 million and in 2020 it is projected to reach 56 million!

How will you balance the need to take care for your aging parent with your company’s long-term success when the time comes? Although you can’t postpone the inevitable, there are several things you can do to prepare yourself.

Have “The Talk” With Your Parents.

Having a conversation with your parents about their wishes and preferences regarding the inevitable issues of aging is crucial to eliminating a lot of the stress and confusion that occurs.

As I’ve seen in so many families, the vast majority of the chaos is because people don’t talk about things before they happens. Instead of planning and being in control of the situation, many families end up making decisions under emotional duress and letting “the system” choose what’s best for their parents. Thoughtfully weighing the options in advance is the first step to getting all of your ducks in a row. You’ll need to consider the financial ducks, the tax implication ducks, the legal ducks and the personal care ducks. Believe me, there are a whole FLOCK of ducks to line up!

It won’t be an easy conversation to have. Depending on your family dynamics, talking to your parents about this will be one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do. But the consequences of silence about your parent’s wishes are far worse than an uncomfortable conversation.

Your parents may have already made their own arrangements, but you’ll never know unless you ask. In my book, Talking About the End Is Only the Beginning, I guide you through the things to consider when talking to your parents about the future.

Plan, Don’t React.

Once you know your parent’s wishes, it’s time to start planning. One thing that I have learned from over 15 years of working with and helping seniors is that you will underestimate the time the time it takes to navigate all of the complex pieces of elder care, such as the personal possessions, paperwork, physicians, home care agencies, attorneys, insurance providers, and pharmacies.

Caregivers need to be able to handle these issues at a moment’s notice and probably devote time during the workday to make phone calls. If you are the breadwinner of your company such as a dentist, real estate agent or entrepreneur, how will you manage caregiving without sacrificing your business?

Learn about the many resources available before you need them. Explore caregiver support groups, adult day care, home care programs, and assisted living options. Ask for referrals from friends and colleagues for attorneys who specialize in eldercare issues like wills, trusts, and medical directives.

Consider insurance needs. Medicare won’t provide for everything that your parent needs for their well-being, and that is unlikely to change in the future. Long-term care insurance can help but you would have needed to purchase it well in advance of needing it. And if you don’t qualify for that coverage, other financial decisions and planning will need to take place.

Create backup plans and rally your support systems. Just as if you were planning for a 2-week vacation, plan for the day when your aging parent needs immediate care. Determine everyone’s responsibilities in advance from who can deal with the doctors to who manages the finances. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to do everything on your own. Figure out what you can outsource and make a written plan that details the location of important documents, contact information, and people to call when you need help.

Delegate And Check In With Your Key Employees.

About 71 percent of working caregivers say their employers know about their caregiving role, while 28% of employees say their bosses are unaware. As a business owner or entrepreneur, what contingencies do you have in place to make sure your business continues to run smoothly if one of your key employees has to take time away from work to care for an aging parent? Cross training employees and creating flexible work arrangements are a way to fill the void of an employee who needs time off.

Caring for an aging parent doesn’t have to completely derail your business. By having the courage to have difficult conversations with your parents, planning in advance, and being able to delegate, you can prevent your business from becoming a part of the $33 billion dollar loss in revenue and productivity each year due to unplanned for caregiving situations. Be proactive about the inevitable and you can ensure your own peace of mind and the financial well being of your business.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with these types of situations. Please take a moment to leave a comment below or share this article with a friend.

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