It’s Never too Late to Put a Plan in Place for Your Parents
By Leah Lancione
Nobody likes talking about it, but if you are a baby boomer whose parents are still living, there’s no time like the present to set up a plan to ensure their quality of life is maintained to the very end. There’s no denying that as your parents get older, health issues will arise along with potentially overwhelming financial concerns. It’s better to have a plan in place if and when your parents need help beyond what you can provide.
Experts warn that the “Silver Tsunami” is leaving many families unprepared for the financial burden of financing their parents’ senior living and care. “With a slowed economy in tandem with aging baby boomers and expensive elder care costs, the nation needs to start planning,” National Public Radio has reported. Don’t wait until it’s too late, the time to act is now. Approach your parents and siblings to discuss what options are available to your parents and to you as their caretakers.
Psychology Today.com published findings from a Journal of Social and Personal Relationships study that concludes “only one-third of siblings help in caring for their parents.” Hopefully you and your siblings are part of the third that realizes it’s a privilege to take care of you parents and will decide now to define what roles you’ll each take and how to best support your loved ones in their final days. All too often conflict develops in families when elderly parents need more care and not everyone chips in equally or—even worse—siblings fight over money.
To avert discord, open the lines of communication and make a pact to keep them open. By calling a family meeting and sharing any information regarding your parents’ health and financial needs, you can prevent the feelings of helplessness and confusion later on when a sudden decision has to be made. Establish how responsibilities will be divvied up if certain scenarios take place — who will be in charge of taking parents to doctors, who will keep after the bills and who will move them from their apartment to the assisted living.
Discuss with your parents where they want to live if they can no longer be on their own. Find out if they have specific wishes and expectations for their final days. Find out if they have a will or money saved in case of an emergency. Also, would they prefer living with with you or one of your siblings or in an assisted living facility?
Make sure you know where your parents’ financial and medical records are. Then take the time to review your parents’ financial records, including their bank account numbers, social security information, monthly bill statements and health insurance information. You need to know what’s available for later on and whether you and your siblings will have to provide financial support.
According to the senior care website aPlaceFormom.com “MetLife estimates that the average cost of a parent’s assisted living care is $3,500 a month.” And this doesn’t account for more expensive senior care, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s care, which can cost $5,000 to $7,000 a month. In an effort to prevent a financial crisis for your parents, consider hiring a financial adviser to navigate through all the necessary legal matters involved in taking over the management of your parents’ finances.
Once you know your parents’ current financial status and have thoroughly discussed their health and the options for their future care, the next step is to designate who will have power of attorney. According to AgingCare.com without that in place, “you’ll have to go to court to get guardianship of your parent in order to access accounts on their behalf.” The site explains that a power of attorney enables your parent to select you or another sibling to handle detailed legal, health and financial duties. There are two types: one for health care in which you have the authority to make those decisions on behalf of your parent and one for finances, in which you have authority to make legal or financial decisions. Regardless of who takes on these responsibilities, make sure you agree to remain in constant communication with your parents and siblings when any major decisions are made.
Next, create a document that states who your parents want to assume the power of attorney responsibilities. If you have it all written out with all the specifics, it will be a lot easier when you visit your local estate planning lawyer to fill out the required forms and make it legal. You can also find these forms online. Fill them out, take them to a lawyer for review and then get the papers notarized at the law office or your bank. Make a copy for your parents and siblings; the original should remain with the power of attorney in a safe place.
Finally, if your parents are willing, visit some of the local assisted living facilities so you know which places are appealing to them. Senior living communities abound that encourage a continued independent and active lifestyle for your parents, but with the security of a 24-hour emergency services available. Since Anne Arundel County and the Eastern Shore are home to countless independent senior living and assisted living communities, you can make an afternoon out of visiting those close by. You should also know that financial help to residents is available in many assisted living programs through the Medicaid Home and Community Based Services Waiver.” For more information on assisted living homes and financial assistance, call your local county department of aging.
Upper Shore Aging, Inc., for Talbot, Caroline and Kent counties www.uppershoreaging.org
Department of Aging Anne Arundel County www.aacounty.org/Aging/index.cfm
Department of Health and Human Services’ Eldercare Locator www.eldercare.gov/eldercare.NET/Public/index.aspx