Helping Aging Parents
Helping aging parents involves many emotional and financial issues. For many parents, it is difficult to admit they are slowing down physically and mentally and cannot perform the tasks that were once routine. Children are often hesitant to broach this subject with their parents for fear of offending them.
Approaching your parents in the spirit of being helpful and lifting some of their burdens can make a difference. They may be very grateful for your assistance and were too proud to ask for your help. Having these discussions and working out a help plan before they have physical or mental incapacities will make decisions and transitions much easier on the entire family.
A good starting place is getting copies of their financial, legal, medical, and insurance information. Put together a contact list of their professional advisors and the health care providers. Don’t forget to document all of their online accounts and login information. Once this data is compiled, you can look for obvious problems such as outdated estate documents or lack of insurance coverage, such as long term care.
Managing their finances is a key component of care. At some point, they will need assistance in paying their bills, bookkeeping and investing their portfolio. If they have professional advisors in place such as attorneys, insurance agents and investment advisors, set up joint meetings so you can understand the role they play in your parent’s financial situation. You may need to hire advisors if they have been “do-it-yourselfers”.
Legal documents such as wills, trusts, medical directives and powers of attorney are very important and need to be current. Consider the practical aspects of who can act on your parents’ behalf if they are unable to make medical and financial decisions on their own. You will need someone close by that can aid in health and medical care decisions to be named as agents on the medical power of attorney. Can children or other relatives that don’t live near-by jump on a plane on a moment’s notice?
Remember the person or persons you name to manage your finances and handle your estate should be competent and willing to take on these duties. Before you name someone as a trustee or agent for your financial power of attorney, ask them first. They will be “stepping into your shoes” and managing your affairs based on your wishes.
Housing decisions are one of the most challenging issues to tackle. Many people desire to stay in their own home but this may not be feasible or wise. As your parents grow older, their health may deteriorate so it is no longer safe to live on their own. At this point, you may need to find them in-home health care or health care within a retirement community or nursing home.
A benefit of a group living facility is the companionship and friendship available. Staying in their own home may isolate them and reduce or cut off their social activities.
Having the opportunity to choose the type of services desired or access to a facility in a good location will require significant resources. Planning in advance to map out how these costs will be paid for is important. If you have not prepared for these costs, your assets may be depleted and your options may be limited.
Letting your parents know that you are open to assisting them when the right time comes might help them admit when they are no longer able manage their affairs like they used to. At this stage, roles may be reversed where you act need to like the parent to make sure their needs are met.
This commentary originally appeared April 9 on TheCasperStarTribune.com
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