There is not a week that goes by that the discussion of how to care for aging parents doesn’t arise. The concerns range from healthcare and housing to monetary and emotional issues.
All of these issues are relevant and at the same time most of our parents have a difficult time giving up their independence. Most people need to approach these issues with their aging parents carefully, but there are some strategies that may be helpful.
- Watch for warning signs. When visiting your parents, take a look around the house. If the things that would normally have been done are not, this may be a red flag that your parents are struggling with the upkeep. Are there unpaid bills piling up on the counter? They may not be aware of when the bills are due which can lead to credit problems.
- Start Small. Parents may be reluctant to have a discussion on their financial matters. You can jump-start the conversation by purchasing a book about financial concerns and discuss the book with them. You might want to ask your parents’ permission to access copies of their bank statements or set up online banking and automatic bill payments. Try to offer guidance and help but try not to take over their finances completely. Working together will also offer an excuse for both parties to discuss the issues and help relieve the stress on your parents to stay on top of everything.
- Be aware of the people in your parents’ lives. Friends, caregivers and church members can offer insight to changes in behavior. Make sure that you have a list handy of those people you can contact and keep the lines of communication open. It is also important to be aware of their professional contacts. Your parents’ attorney, doctors, insurance agent and financial advisor should have your contact information as well.
- Work with your siblings. Sharing responsibility can be tricky, but keeping everyone in the loop is critical. If one sibling lives closer, in-person tasks may be easier for him or her while online finances can be done from any location. Set up monthly telephone meetings with siblings to make sure that everyone is aware of the situation and can make decisions together.
- Power of Attorney. A power of attorney form authorizes an agent to make business or financial decisions on the grantors behalf. If a parent is willing to sign and notarize a power of attorney form, it could give you greater oversight of your parents’ finances. This may be difficult for your parents to give up their independence. Make sure that the family is notified and that everyone is aware of who has power of attorney.
This stage of your life may be difficult, but if you discuss your concerns with people around you, they may be able to offer insight about this difficult transition.
No one likes to lose their independence, so be aware and help your parents with their difficult transition. You will both be glad that you did.
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