Some people live their entire lives with little or no assistance from family and friends, but today Americans are living longer than ever before. And while caring for your aging parents is something you hope you can handle when the time comes, it's probably the last thing you want to think about.
The first step you need to take is to talk to your parents.
How to Get the Conversation Started
The most difficult step you take toward caring for your parents may just be having that initial conversation with them. They may be unwilling or unable to talk about their future because of anything from incapacity, their fear of becoming dependent, resentment toward you for interfering or reluctance to burden you with their problems.
What to Ask
If you are nervous about talking to your parents, make a list of topics that you need to discuss. You should talk about:
Long-term Care Insurance
Do they have it? If not, should they buy it?
If they don’t have long term care insurance, then the financial burden will need to be taken from savings, or it will likely fall on you, the caretaker. This is an extremely important conversation to have.
Can they still live alone, or is it time to explore other options?
Make sure you have a plan for both options. You never know what is going to happen and health can decline very quickly and unexpectedly.
What are their wishes, and who will carry them out?
This becomes important at so there are no questions about who is to carry out their wishes in the end. With these in place, you won’t have to make tough decisions in the end because you will know exactly what they want.
Do they have all of the necessary documents (eg, wills, trusts)?
You should know exactly where these documents are, have the passwords if applicable, and know what’s on them.
What do you expect from your parents, and what do they expect from you?
Have this conversation will give you more peace of mind to know what your role will be in their lives as they age and need more care.
Reinforce with them that you only want what is best for them, but without proper planning that can become very difficult to achieve.
Have Their Personal Data Record
Once you have 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:
Financial information: Bank accounts, investment accounts, real estate holdings
Legal information: Wills, durable powers of attorney, health care directives
Funeral and burial plans: Prepayment information, final wishes
Medical information: Health care providers, medication, medical history
Insurance information: Policy numbers, company names
Advisor information: Names and phone numbers of any professional service providers
Location of other important records: Keys to safe-deposit boxes, real estate deeds
Evaluate Your Parents' Abilities
If you are concerned about your parents' mental or physical capabilities, ask their doctor(s) to recommend a facility for a geriatric assessment to determine your parents' capabilities for day-to-day activities. The facility can then refer you and your parents to organizations that provide support.
Get Support and Advice
Don't try to care for your parents alone. Many local and national caregiver support groups and community services are available to help you cope with caring for your aging parents. If you don't know where to find help, contact your state's department of eldercare services.
You may also want to work with a Financial Professional during this process to help ensure that your parents’ futures—as well as your own—are financially secure and can support their health care needs.
Ande began her 20+ year career as an adviser and quickly realized that many people weren’t taking into account was how emotions play a huge factor in financial decision making. Leaving behind her practice to focus solely on educating both advisers and consumers alike, she became an expert in behavioral finance. Author, speaker, thought leader, and money educator, Ande is helping women to take control of their money.
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