How To Prepare For Aging Family Members

Subtopic: Interview of Mary McCombs Air Date: July 24th, 2020

Remember who cared for you growing up? Moms and Dad’s kissed our boo-boos and rocked us to sleep after nightmares. That’s what great parents do.

The roles reverse: Today, we are grown with our own families. Many of you have professional careers that took years to establish, domestic responsibilities with children’s extra-curricular activities, and the list goes on. Our parents know first-hand, married couples need time alone to nurture their relationship when time permits. Now, with aging parents, what is required to ensure they will get nothing less than what was provided to us.

The best plans for managing the finances of an older relative are made when that individual is still healthy. Once stricken by illness, or frustrated by the loss of mobility and freedom, an older relative may not understand questions or be able to state details of their wishes. Fueled by the uncertainty of what he older relative really wants, the lack of a plan may ignite family arguments. Leading to even more difficult times and potential hostility.

What are the steps you should take?

  1. Prepare for the conversation
    • Prevent jumping directly into bank/savings and investment accounts
    • Focus on health and lifestyle issues first so that everyone reaches a level of comfort in broaching the difficult subject
  2. Explain to your parents or your spouse’s parents the purpose of discussing finances. These questions help create and guide you through a meaningful conversation. None of these questions asks about dollars and cents but focuses on how the relatives live today and their plans for the future.
    • Is there a power of attorney?
    • Is it medical or financial? Who has it?
    • Where important papers such as a will are kept?
    • How household expenses get paid?
    • How to reach doctors?
    • A list of medications?
    • Is there an advanced health care directive and a funeral plan
  3. Digest the conversation but also use your own knowledge of your parents to help formulate your plan
    • Does your parent suffer from any chronic diseases or illnesses?
    • Does your parent experience incontinence, weight fluctuations, bone fractures, unsteadiness, dental problems, or other irregularities?
    • Can you provide a list of doctors and other medical professionals your parent visits?
    • Prescriptions and dosage amounts
    • Does your parent take medicines as directed?
    • Has your parent ever been diagnosed with any of the following conditions: depression, anxiety, Alzheimer’s disease, or dementia?
    • Does your parent have mood swings, forgetfulness, confusion, or depression?
    • Does your parent appear to have a decreased interest in things that once captivated him or her, such as friendships or recreational activities?
    • With what level of ease does your parent move about the house? Does he or she need walkers, canes, or other special devices, such as bathroom grab bars?
    • How many of the following activities can your parent perform independently: bathing, dressing, communicating by telephone, walking, climbing stairs, cooking, cleaning, and driving?
    • If your parent has pets, is he or she able to give them the level of care they require?
    • Is the neighborhood secure, and does the home contain safety features such as smoke alarms, grab bars, and non-slip flooring?
    • Can your parent perform the necessary maintenance on the home and yard?
    • Does your parent know how to protect him- or herself from predatory scams and fraud?
    • Is the contact information of friends and family members easily accessible?
    • Does your parent interact with friends or have social contact on a regular basis?
    • Is your parent close to family members whom he or she sees often?
    • Hygiene
    • Has your parent’s level of personal hygiene remained the same? Does he or she need help with routine tasks such as washing, shaving, or hair and teeth brushing?
    • Are clothes appropriate and clean?
    • Is your parent able to pay the bills and maintain good financial health?
    • Does your parent have, and can he or she locate, legal documents such as wills, powers of attorney, etc.?
    • Do you know where to find important information about insurance and financial accounts?
  4. Take action! And review your plan periodically as the answer to the questions we’ve just reviewed can change drastically depending on your parent’s health and mental state.
    • With increased longevity in the U.S. population, many retirees may find themselves in the position of helping elderly parents or relatives to manage their finances. If you have an aging parent or relative in need of assistance, consider the following information:
    • Revocable and Irrevocable Trusts
    • Durable POA
    • Private Annuities
    • Informal Arrangements
    • Recommendations for action
      • Fewer accounts
      • Automate bill payments
      • Use direct deposit
      • Add you name to the National Do Not Call Registry – easy to do by visiting donotcall.gov
      • Make a list of all assets, key contacts (advisers, lawyers, CPA’s, etc.)
      • Make sure your spouse knows how to handle things in case something happens to you