My family was lucky. When mom suffered a stroke several years ago, my 6 siblings quickly got on the same page and structured a plan for her immediate and ongoing care. I know that isn’t feasible for the one third of Americans who are caring for an aging parent. Usually sandwiched in between generations, balancing the care of your own children with aging elders can be a huge source of stress and overwhelm, especially if the need arises around a medical emergency.
The challenge can be expensive and stressful and I think the way you minimize that is by educating and preparing yourself “before” the emergency hits. Here are some tips to encourage the conversations with your aging parents and start asking these questions:
- Find out what they owe and own
- Know all their income sources: Social security, pensions, IRAs, and investments
Second, calculate their fixed expenses. Can they make ends meet or is it time to make lifestyle changes? It is important that you not make assumptions about their financial picture and verify the facts.
Then, get organized and find out about any life insurance policies (and titled beneficiaries) and Will. Make sure you have access to all of their important accounts like banking, policies and investment accounts. Doing that now gives you a great peace of mind in knowing how the money is being handled and that you can step in at a moment’s notice and make financial decisions on their behalf.
I realize it can be difficult to start these conversations with the elderly, but the bottom line is that nothing is better than preparation. Especially if you know you’ll be the one ultimately to be making decisions for your family member if they are unable to care for themselves.
Next, check out the community services available to seniors in their area. One of the things that helped stabilize our mom the most after her stroke was having Meals on Wheels deliver lunch daily. It was a godsend as it reminded her to take her medications regularly along with her meals. You may be surprised how many great resources exist from transportation, visitation, senior centers, emergency assistance, wellness programs and many more. In Johnson County, the JOCO Research and Extension department even offers free consultations about Medicare to bring you in the know.
At Group O’Dell we have been passionate over the years in helping our clients get good information on these matters through education, referring estate attorneys and aging specialist to navigate these waters. Believe me it won’t take you long to realize that YOU too, should have a plan in place so that your immediate family also understands your wishes and is equipped to carry them out.
At minimum, some of you need to get something in place immediately. Click here to view the Advance Health Care Planning in Kansas directives that the K-State Research and Extension office has provided. Of course, we would always advise the professional opinion of an estate attorney but we have had clients who were stuck in situations because some of these directives were not on hand.
Finally, keep in mind, if you or a capable loved one is looking at your current housing situation as a way to age in place or downsize, we are always ready to consult with you about this and create the best plan for you.