Aging comes with its own unique set of challenges, especially when it comes to your parents. Elder care money and legal issues should not be keeping you awake. With the right professional team on your side, you can rest assured that your parents will be taken care of, no matter what.
When it comes to taking care of your aging parents, timing is of the essence. That is tough advice to hear, especially if your Mom and Dad are in decent health and a fiercely independent state of mind. You may have attempted to broach elder care conversations unsuccessfully, or perhaps you don’t even know where to start. No matter what your situation, I want you to know that now is the right time to be thinking about it.
What exactly do you need to take care of your parents? The answer will depend on your circumstances, but at the absolute minimum you should know that there are 3 types of professionals who can help.
First, you need an elder care attorney.
Ideally, you want a professional who is experienced and skilled beyond creating Will and Trust documents. Technical expertise is important, but in the perfect world you will find the person who is good at working with aging individuals. Conversations about death, legacy and estate planning aren’t easy, and your parents’ level of resistance may well be off the charts. It might take the right touch, combined with the right expertise, to get things done.
Next, consider the Healthcare Power of Attorney.
A Healthcare Power of Attorney (POA) is an individual who will make decision on your parents’ behalf should they become incapacitated and unable to do it for themselves. Choosing this person is no small task. He or she should know your parents and deeply understand their preferences for living circumstances, continued treatment and life support. A stroke, heart attack or accident can incapacitate an individual fast, so it is critical to make these decisions before an emergency happens.
Finally, you need a financial planner.
A financial planner can help you and your parents understand your financial circumstances, resources and preferences – then plan for a variety of scenarios. What is your parents’ plan if one or both of them were to need extended specialty care? How long will they be able to remain in their home, and how will the family know it’s time to consider other options? What financial reserves are available? Are they using their Social Security and Medicare benefits in the optimal way? A specialist will shine light on these complex questions and guide you all through making the best decisions.
“That sounds great – but how do I actually talk to my parents about it?”
In one word, gently.
My advice is to approach the subject carefully, and to give your family plenty of time to have the conversation over the course of months or even years (assuming that you are starting with a non-emergency situation and actually have the time). Acknowledge that the subject is a difficult one, and that you would feel better if you and your parents could think through it together. If a topic creates resistance, let it go for a time. You will accomplish more if your parents are actively involved in the conversation.
Finally, remember that sometimes it takes an independent third party to broach these issues. Use your professional team to make sure the technical aspects of the plan are in place, and also to move the process along at the right time.
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