How will you care for your parents?

The final assignment in my PPS825 (Intro Health Policy) class for Masters students this fall was to develop a plan for how the students planned to care for their parents if/when they needed help and support. The students in the class took this very seriously and did such a great job on this.

The assignment prompt is below and could be useful to help you think through some of the issues. I am in the process of trying to get a book contract for a working title “How to care for your parents without killing yourself” and used several draft chapters as course materials this fall. I am planning to crank back up some blogging focused on this topic in 2019.

End of Semester Assignment in Lieu of a Final Exam, PPS 825

Due December 7, 2018

Identify an older person (parent, grand parent, etc.) and develop a plan for how they will be cared for as they age and potentially need help and support from someone else/others to manage basic life navigation like paying bills, shopping, keeping up with medical appointments and taking prescriptions on time. Later they may need help with activities like dressing, bathing, using the toilet and eating. Also consider this person’s (it could be a couple if you wish) current housing needs as well as their future ones.  In developing this plan, consider these questions and ideas, that may not be equally relevant in all cases:

  • Age and likelihood of when s/he may need care, or what type, and for how long?
  • What are the biggest problems that you foresee in making a plan to care for this loved one? Seeing it through.
  • Be clear about help Navigating life, housing and more basic care. Think through how these are related, especially the timing of changes (earlier housing changes could reduce fall risks, for example).
  • What is the financial situation of the individual.
  • What types of insurance does the person have? Medicare, Medigap, Medicaid, Private LTC insurance.
  • What is their current housing situation.
  • How many people will be involved in caring for this person(s)? Have you communicated about this?
  • Has this loved one made clear statements of preference for these and/or related matters? In related fashion, do they have a will? Plans for where they will be buried/cremation? Have durable power of attorney of any type been considered?
  • Have these issues been discussed with your siblings/others who will view themselves as having a stake and/or a say in how this person(s) is cared for? If no, can you initiate a discussion? If there are tensions, how can you seek to address and reduce them?


  • A 500 word letter addressed to the family in question, laying out the basics of your plan for caring for this person(s), including specific questions that you think should be asked and answered to prepare for the future. Be sure to note uncertainty that you may have, but also provide your recommendation(s) about what should be done to care for or to prepare to care for a loved one.
  • Longer document of 2,500 words that lays out more details about the plan, including a timeline of important questions to answer, broken down into next 6 months, next 3 years, next 6 years, next 20 years. These time periods may not all be equally relevant for all situations.
  • 1,500 words that lays out at least 2 public policy changes, and 1 individual change that you can undertake that you think would help your children when the time comes for them to begin talking with you about a plan to take care of you.
  • Any documentation in the way of appendices to support you analysis and decisions.

About Don Taylor
Professor of Public Policy (with appointments in Business, Nursing, Community and Family Medicine, and the Duke Clinical Research Institute), and Chair of the Academic Council at Duke University . I am one of the founding faculty of the Margolis Center for Health Policy. My research focuses on improving care for persons who are dying, and I am co-PI of a CMMI award in Community Based Palliative Care. I teach both undergrads and grad students at Duke. On twitter @donaldhtaylorjr

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