Taking care of aging parents is one of the most important, daunting, and demanding roles many of us face in our lifetime. Unfortunately, it’s also a challenge most busy professionals put off until a crisis is actually staring them in the face. One day, Mom and Dad are fine. The next, you get “that call.” A serious medical diagnosis, debilitating accident, and/or financial upset changes everything.
Then what? In the absence of preparation, your parents may not receive the most optimal assistance available. You, in turn may be left scrambling to come up with even sub-optimal solutions for urgent demands. The results are rarely ideal for either of you.
Preparing to Care for Aging Parents Is Important
Of course, there’s never a good time to receive bad news about your parents. Even if you’ve carefully planned for the possibilities, they can be painful and frightening when they occur, take a heavy toll on your already-hectic schedule, and create tremendous financial burdens.
But by preparing for the day your parents might require extra assistance, you’re likely to experience better outcomes when the time comes.
Preparing for potential elder care helps your parents:
Preparing also helps you:
Preparation is a gift to the entire family, collectively helping you:
Five Cogent Steps to Success in Helping Aging Parents
Surprisingly, one of the biggest hurdles to preparing for this level of elder care is simply knowing how to get started. How do you plan for the unknown? How do you have the difficult conversations? Once you’ve had them, then what? Here are five essential steps to prepare for and manage your parents’ elder care needs.
Step One: Have the Conversation
This first step may seem obvious, but we’ve found it’s usually the most challenging one for families to face. Once you’ve had a meaningful conversation with your parents about their elder care preferences, it becomes much easier to embark on the rest.
So, how do you make it happen? Try asking for the conversation as a gift from your parents to you: “Mom, Dad, I would love to ask you for a special gift for my birthday (or Thanksgiving, etc.). I know you don’t want to be a burden, so we’ve rarely talked about these sorts of things. But I believe we would all benefit from a conversation about your plans and preferences. Would you give us this gift of your time?”
The goal isn’t to decide every little thing. It’s to find out what’s important to your parents while expressing your own concerns. Ask them about their hopes, goals, and values. What could they use the most? What are their biggest wishes? Their greatest fears? What do they want their elder care to look like if difficult decisions must be made?
If your parents have always been reluctant to talk to you about money, one of your greatest concerns may be whether there’s enough of it. If not, there may be sensible steps you could take today, to bridge potential gaps before they become chasms.
Step Two: Organize the Information
Having tackled an initial conversation, the second step becomes easier. The goal is to simply organize the relevant information in your parents’ lives before a crisis occurs—so you’re not left trying to hunt down some manila folder you think you saw once in a drawer that may or may not exist.
Where do your parents keep their Social Security and Medicare cards, marriage license, and health insurance plan? Where are their financial and bank accounts? What are the passwords to their computer and mobile devices? Assembling and organizing these records positions you to more rapidly serve and care for your parents should the need arise.
Step Three: Prepare Essential Legal Documents
Beyond having access to critical information, you’ll need the legal power to make use of it if needed. An attorney can help create and maintain the relevant legal documents here.
This is especially important if there are key people in your family who are not directly related through blood or marriage. If that’s the case, you’ll want to have extra legal documents to override standard law, which may not recognize their authority. For example, is there a partner or step child who should have a legal say they wouldn’t normally have? Or, what if there is a blood child who should not have the say they would normally have? Legal documents can ensure the right individuals have the right amount of say when needed, so the decision-making doesn’t fall into the wrong (if legal) hands.
Step Four: Assemble Your Professional Team
Next, assemble an ideal team of professionals around you. Take this step in advance! You don’t want to have to hunt down the right team members once you’re already stressed out, mid-crisis, and in urgent need of immediate support. A typical team includes your financial advisor; a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA); your tax planner; and preferably, a geriatric care manager (typically a social worker or registered nurse).
Why a CELA attorney? The credential can help ensure your lawyer has specialized experience to address a range of elder care issues—from long-term care, assisted living, and nursing home planning, to special needs, guardianship arrangements, and more. Ideally, seek an attorney who can be a part of your long-term team, to address all the aging issues that might affect your family across multiple generations.
Step Five: Develop and Implement the Care Plan
Your geriatric care manager can play a vital role in this final step, helping you develop and implement a care plan to address whatever comes next. They can more quickly rally your other team members as needed, while helping you navigate challenges such as how to:
With or without a care manager, the final step is to put your plan in place moving forward, based on the actions taken in your first four steps.
A Cogent Way Forward
At Cogent Strategic Wealth, we’ve walked in our clients’ shoes with our own families. We’ve seen firsthand what an enormous difference it can make to talk to your parents about their elder care … before an urgent need arises and there’s no help in sight.
Guided by our personal and professional experience, we’ve curated our own teams of strategic alliances and care managers, to help connect your family’s financial planning with elder care and an array of other dynamics that comprise your ideal quality of life.
Preparing to care for your parents in advance of a crisis won’t eliminate every challenge. But it at least gives you the ability to control what you can, while honoring your parents’ ability to maintain their independence and quality of life for as long as possible.
Would you like to learn more about the five steps involved in elder care planning? Check out our recent webinar, “Prepare to Care for Your Aging Parents Before a Crisis.” In it, Michael Evans and Kelly Stanley speak with CELA attorney Katie Casey and certified care manager Erin Vogt of Dutton, Casey & Mesoloras, P.C.
To learn more about building a financial plan for realizing your overall financial goals, while avoiding the headache of managing every aspect, sit down with our team today for a Cogent Conversation. We’ll listen to what success looks like for you, explore any challenges your family faces, build a plan tailored to you, and help you execute that plan every step of the way.
Don’t manage your family’s financial future all on your own. Book your Cogent Conversation today!
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