Want to ruin your next social gathering? Try talking about money.
Now try bringing finances up with your aging parents.
If you are trying to figure out how to even begin this conversation, we have some tips for you.
How to Discuss Finances With an Elder Loved One
Start with respect. Try to avoid sounding like a parent to your own parent: make it an open conversation instead of a one-sided demand.
Offering to assist — or help them to get assistance — with finances will net better results than demanding to take over their finances completely. This will not only give you an assessment of the financial issues your loved ones are experiencing, but will also give you insight into possible trouble down the road. Surprises or preventable unforeseen circumstances often prove to be the most costly.
It’s nearly impossible to change the mind of someone who has held a certain value for so long, so be sure to constantly remind them that you’re here to help and be supportive and not to take advantage.
Handling Diminished Brain Health
A decline in brain health is the main factor that contributes to financial issues among aging parents and their families. A parent with dementia may not only forget to pay bills but might also lack the mental faculties to know what bills they have (and which financial institutions they owe money to). It can be difficult to handle the behavioral changes associated with caring for a parent with dementia but is crucial to maintaining your loved one’s financial well-being.
Power of Attorney
Power of attorney is when a person is given legal authority to act and make legal and financial decisions for another. If your aging parent’s mental health is regressing toward the point of incompetence, you must ensure they designate power of attorney before they’re unable to make decisions. This is particularly important with elders who are at-risk for health issues like severe dementia and strokes.
If you can, try to ask your parent whom they would prefer as power of attorney. Often, the ideal candidate is a trustworthy family member, who is aware of your loved one’s wishes or a compassionate lawyer with whom the family has familiarity.
If you wait too long to assign power of attorney and your parent becomes mentally incapacitated, legal battles between family members could ensue which would exacerbate the stress and emotions of an already difficult time.
Open Up a Discourse With Relevant Parties
It’s vital to remain in touch with family, friends, and caregivers. These are the people who spend the most time with your aging loved ones, and therefore will in all likelihood see warning signs and come across pertinent information before you do. Furthermore, it’s important to stay in touch with siblings and family members so everyone is equally informed on any health and/or financial decision concerning your loved one.
In addition to those close with your parent, get in touch with individuals that they’ve associated with professionally. Money managers, lawyers, coworkers, and insurance agents will all have information you may need while navigating through the financial issues of your aging parents.
Financial Categories to Discuss
Here are the categories to become familiar with in regards to your aging parent’s finances.
Income and Expenses: Find out how much money your parent has put away, how much money is still coming in, and calculate the costs of their regular expenses combined with how much they’re spending on medical care. Additionally, you should also be aware of any debt and assets your parent has.
Assisted Care Communities: If it is necessary for an elder family member to relocate to assisted living or a nursing home, be careful with who takes on the financial responsibility of that decision. Many assisted living communities will try to get you to pay for your parents’ stay, but these costs–often in the hundreds of thousands–can be out of reach for many. If your parents can’t afford this type of care, ask if programs like Medicaid and Medicare are viable options.
The first part of estate planning is deciding where the deceased’s assets go when they eventually pass away. The second part of estate planning is deciding how to choose an estate planning attorney and who the power of attorney goes to in case the senior becomes disabled.
While a living will encompasses far more than finances, it is an extremely important document to have in place. This will prevent emotional trauma among family members if and when the time comes to decide on end-of-life medical care.
If a health crisis occurs, information and proof of facts will be the best tools in your arsenal. Work with your aging loved one to (at the very least) have access to and preferably have paper or electronic copies of financial records, bank & brokerage accounts, legal documents, bills, and passwords. The more information you have documented, the fewer issues you will face down the road.
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