Watching a parent depend on others to perform the typical tasks of daily living is difficult. And offering to help – or pushing your parent to admit they need help – can feel awkward and difficult (you never outgrow being your parent’s child).
As challenging as these circumstances can be, it’s essential to have a plan that coordinates between your family and your parent’s medical professionals to avoid misunderstandings should a crisis arise. If you find yourself confronting this reality, take these steps:
Start by getting in touch with your siblings or close relatives to discuss the course of care. As odd as it sounds, it will help to have an agenda and objectives prepared beforehand. This may be an uncomfortable conversation, so lean on the agenda to keep the discussion focused. It’s worth emphasizing to your family how important it is that this conversation happens before a crisis occurs. This is a tough but important milestone in addressing your parent’s care as they age.
One of the objectives should be to identify someone as the point of contact to communicate with your parent’s medical professionals. We strongly suggest this person obtain a health care power of attorney (POA).
Another objective should be to designate someone responsible for obtaining, organizing, and storing your parent’s vital records, including Social Security numbers, health insurance policy information, and birth certificates. If possible, store hard copies AND keep digital copies somewhere convenient and easily accessible.
Finally, nominate someone to oversee estate planning considerations for your parent. This person will be responsible for organizing financial accounts, life insurance policies, trusts, deeds, wills, and other estate planning documents. Ideally, this person will obtain a financial power of attorney.
If all three of these roles fall to you, don’t worry. We’re here to help!
Getting your family on the same page is a significant milestone in this process. Next, it’s time to approach your parent. Again, an agenda and objectives for this meeting will help keep the conversation focused and on track. It’s a very sensitive topic for most families and shouldn’t be taken lightly, because you are asking your parent to share some control in their decision-making.
The first thing should be to stress to your parent that you’re asking to serve as caretakers for his or her wishes, not to impose your own views. Again, coordinating with your family beforehand can help emphasize how seriously your family is taking this conversation.
Next, obtain the two power of attorneys. These documents should be prepared by a lawyer. If your parent is unfamiliar with POAs, explain that they aren’t giving up rights to make decisions on their behalf when they’re capable; rather, the POAs allow the named person to make decisions only if your parent becomes incapacitated (as defined by the document).
Depending on your parent’s age and health, you may consider long-term care solutions. These can include standalone long-term care insurance policies that can help offset the cost of nursing home facilities, additional riders on existing life insurance policies to add a long-term care benefit, or restructuring existing financial accounts to cover health care costs. Contact our office to discuss these solutions based on your parent’s specific circumstances.
As emotionally difficult as this conversation often is, the good news is that you’re not alone. Our office can help you put together a plan to help your family handle this phase of life.