Making financial decisions takes time, attention and energy at any age. In the case of elderly adults, it can become increasingly difficult to manage daily finances, particularly if their health is declining or they’re experiencing cognitive issues. If you’re providing support to aging parents — or plan to in the future — here is some advice on how to handle the situation and prepare for what’s to come.
Don’t wait to start talking about finances. While it may be uncomfortable to ask your parents about their finances, it’s essential you are familiar with their plans for care. Initially, emphasize that you are only looking for an overview. This first conversation can help set the groundwork for future discussions.
Create a contact list. If your parents have a sudden change in health that affects their ability to manage their own affairs, it’s important to have a plan. If you anticipate stepping in to handle bills, insurance claims or other financial tasks, start by asking your parents for a list of the professionals they work with and where their accounts are held. You may need to be an authorized user or power of attorney to be allowed access to certain accounts. Consult a lawyer to discuss what permissions may be necessary to enable you step in if the need arises.
Build a support network. Talk with siblings or other trusted family members about what a care plan could look like. While this conversation can be tough to initiate, it’s often easier to bring everyone together while your parents are still healthy and mentally competent. Discuss who can realistically provide support — in what way and at what cost. Proactively deciding who can drive your parents to doctor appointments, manage financial affairs, care for their home and handle other tasks can help reduce or avoid a strain on your time and energy down the road.
Know what choices exist. Even if they aren’t yet needed, explore the options and costs of various assisted living and memory care services. Check insurance policies to see if and how services might be covered. Determine whether their home or yours could be modified to provide amenities such as wheelchair access.
Know your rights at work. The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) allows covered employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to provide care for a family member with a serious health condition.1 Consult your human resources department to learn about policies for employees who are caring for a parent and how to initiate a claim. Many employers have access to resources and support groups to help you manage your responsibilities at home and at work.
Maintain momentum on your own financial goals. It’s prudent to look at your finances to see how much support you could provide (if it’s needed) without jeopardizing your own retirement and future healthcare needs.
For additional support, contact your financial advisor and lawyer.