Whether the time is now or somewhere down the road, caring for your aging parents is something that may significantly impact your finances and well-being. Some people live their entire lives with little or no assistance from family and friends, but today, Americans live longer than ever before.
An aging population means that an increasing number of people live with and care for their elderly parents. While some people can live off their Social Security in old age, it’s always better to be prepared for any expenses that can come your way. However, there are steps that you can take to make your life, and theirs, a little easier.
Talk to your parents
The first step is to talk to your parents. Find out what their needs and wishes are. Some people want to live in a group setting in retirement, and others would prefer to live with their adult children. In some cases, however, they may be unwilling or unable to talk about their future. Your parents may not want to talk about their future for several reasons, including:
- Incapacity – Some people do not have a conversation about where they will live in retirement until they cannot live alone. This can restrict a family’s options, as well.
- Fear – Many aging individuals fear being dependent on others or do not want to be a burden. Therefore, they might choose not to talk about it rather than deal with the idea head-on.
- Resentment – Your parents might resent you for bringing the conversation up because it is something they are not yet ready to confront.
- Reluctance – Your aging parents might not want to burden you with their problems. They’re used to taking care of you, not being taken care of.
If your parents do not want to talk about how they want to be cared for as they age, you may need to do as much planning as you can without them. For example, you might want to start a savings account that you will use to cover their expenses as they age.
However, if their safety or health is in danger, you may need to step in as a caregiver. If you’re nervous about talking to your parents, make a list of topics you need to discuss. That way, you’ll be less likely to forget anything. Here are some things that you may need to talk about:
- Long-term care insurance: Do they have it? If not, should they buy it?
- Living arrangements: Can they still live alone, or is it time to explore other options?
- Medical care decisions: What are their wishes, and who will carry them out?
- Financial planning: How can you protect their assets?
- Estate planning: Do they have all the necessary documents in place, such as wills and trusts?
- Expectations: What do you expect from your parents, and what do they expect from you?
Prepare a personal data record
Once you’ve opened the lines of communication, your next step is to prepare a personal data record. This document lists information that you might need in case your parents become incapacitated or die. Here’s some information that should be included:
- Financial information: Bank accounts, investment accounts, real estate holdings
- Legal information: Wills, durable power of attorneys, healthcare directives
- Funeral and burial plans: Prepayment information, final wishes
- Medical information: Healthcare providers, medication, medical history
- Insurance information: Policy numbers, company names
- Advisor information: Names and phone numbers of any professional service providers
- Location of other vital records: Keys to safe-deposit boxes, real estate deeds
Be sure to write down the location of documents and any relevant account numbers. It’s a good idea to make copies of all the documents you’ve gathered and keep them in a safe place. This is especially important if you live far away because you’ll want the information readily available in the event of an emergency.
Where will your parents live?
If your parents are like many older folks, where they live will depend on how healthy they are. As your parents grow older, their health may deteriorate so much that they can no longer 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.
You may insist that your aging parents come to live with you when they can no longer live independently. Senior care facilities are expensive, so moving in with you may be the best financial option. However, you’ll want to give this decision serious thought. This decision will impact your entire family, so be sure to talk with your spouse, children, and even your siblings first. Many families create a care plan for their aging parents, so you may want to speak with your siblings and other family members about getting extra help.
Evaluating Your Parents’ Abilities
If you’re concerned about your parents’ mental or physical capabilities, ask their doctor(s) to recommend a facility for a geriatric assessment. These assessments can be done at hospitals or clinics. The evaluation determines your parents’ capabilities for day-to-day activities, including cooking, housework, personal hygiene, taking medications, making phone calls, and more. If your parent struggles with the assessment, the facility conducting the geriatric assessment can refer you and your parents to organizations that provide support.
If you can’t be there to care for your parents, or if you just need some guidance to oversee your parents’ care, a geriatric care manager (GCM) can also help. Typically, GCMs are nurses or social workers with experience in senior care. They can assess your parents’ ability to live independently, coordinate round-the-clock care if necessary, or recommend home health care and other agencies that can help your parents remain independent.
Get support and advice
You should not feel alone when caring for your aging parents. There are many local and national caregiver support groups and community services to help you cope with caring for your aging parents. If you don’t know where to find help, contact your state’s eldercare services department, or call (800) 677-1116 to reach the Eldercare Locator, an information and referral service sponsored by the federal government. The Eldercare Locator can direct you to resources available nationally or in your area. Some of the services available in your community may include:
- Caregiver support groups and training
- Adult daycare
- Respite care
Guidelines on how to choose a nursing home
Free or low-cost legal advice
The bottom line
Once you’ve gathered all the necessary information, you may find some gaps. For example, you might find that your parent has most of their documentation available, but no will. You will then be able to pursue the legal help that she needs to get her affairs in order. You may wish to consult an attorney or other financial professional whose advice both you and your parents can trust.
Ultimately, you should not feel alone when planning your aging parent’s end of life care. There are myriad options available to you and plenty of support services as well. If you are unsure of how to plan for your aging parent’s care financially, be sure to reach out to a Navalign financial advisor.