Preparing To Help Aging Parents

We often find ourselves so engrossed in how fast our children are growing up that it’s easy to sometimes forget that our own parents are also aging.  It’s never too early to start preparing for the responsibility of caring for parents in the future.   Whether they want the role or not, more and more adult children are finding themselves in the position of primary caregiver for their aging parents.  Unfortunately, many are not prepared for that role.

Finances:

  • Create a durable Power of Attorney to name a person to control your parents’ finances when they no longer can
  • Compile all the information about your parents’ assets, including location and account numbers of checking and savings accounts and other investment vehicles.
  • Find out where they keep a safety deposit box and where they store their important documents.
  • Run credit reports (www.equifax.com, www.experian.com, and www.transunion.com) and analyze all outstanding debt (mortgage, loans, and credit card balances)
  • Assign a family member to their day to day finances or consider hiring a daily money manager to assist with bill paying, budgeting, and balancing the checkbook.  A daily money manager is a relatively inexpensive option (www.aadmm.com)
  • It is possible that your parents could qualify for federal and state assistance.  Check by completing the National Council of Aging questionnaire at https://www.benefitscheckup.org/.

Healthcare:

  • Review your parent’s current insurance coverage including Medicare benefits
  • Guide your parents to execute a Living Will as well as a Power of Attorney, to designate a person to make medical decisions when they are not able to
  • Talk to your parent’s physician so you can get a full understanding of their medical needs and future prognosis
  • Reach out to their pharmacist to guard against negative medication interactions resulting from prescriptions from multiple doctors

Living accommodations:

  • Talk to your parents to determine which type of elder care facility they would select if they are no longer able to care for themselves.  You should think about whether or not you would like them to live with you at that point, another relative, or if assisted living/nursing homes would be more appropriate.   It’s also important to think about these costs now as you develop a future time table.
  • Be prepared for additional out of pocket expenses which could include home health aides, adult day care, visiting nurse services, and physical therapy
  • Consider utilizing modern technology to make your parents’ lives more comfortable (i.e. visual aids, electric stair climber, heart and blood pressure monitoring systems)
  • Think about food preparation and delivery services as an option for when your parents are unable to take care of their own meals.  Research options such as Meals on Wheels (www.mowaa.org) that cater to the elder demographics

Transportation:

  • Keep in mind it may be difficult for your parents to give up their car despite declining eyesight and slower physical reaction
  • If your parents are not at this point yet, it still makes sense to have a conversation with them now to agree when it’s time to take away the car as their primary mode of transportation
  • Find other methods for your parents to shop, visit, friends, go to the doctor, etc. (buses, car service, and cabs)
  • Check with the local community and the county to see if special transportation for seniors is available
  • There’s also the option of moving your parents to an area where there is more adequate public transportation

There are resources out there for assistance and additional information:

National Alliance for Caregiving (www.caregiver.org)

National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (http://www.n4a.org/)

Administration on Aging (www.aoa.gov)

Elderweb (www.elderweb.com)

About the author

Tom Orecchio, CFA, CFP®

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