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Caring for an Elderly Parent

Take steps now to ease the burden on yourself, your parents and other family members.

Caring For An Elderly Parent

Watching parents lose their independence can be a challenging reality for children to face. Yet, when aging parents need help, it's often the children who step in to take responsibility.

If you're providing care to an elderly parent—whether it's a few chores around the house or assistance with daily living—you know how stressful caregiving can be. Emotionally. Physically. And financially. While caring for your parent may be a sacrifice you make willingly, here are steps you can take:

2 in 5 US adults are either unsure of how they will handle Long-Term Care or do not plan to address their potential Long-Term Care needs
  1. 1. Begin by initiating a talk or series of talks with your parents. 
  2. Cover all the relevant topics, such as planning for long-term care, nursing home preferences, health care directives, burial plots and wills. They're sensitive subjects, but when important decisions need to be made, adult children owe it to their parents to understand their wishes.

  3. 2. Don’t wait for tragedy to strike before opening the door to difficult conversations. 
  4. After Mom falls and breaks a hip or Dad has a stroke, the entire family will be dealing with a range of emotions. That’s not the time to be asking if your parents have a power of attorney for health care. Encourage your parents to name a health care proxy while they're healthy. Not only will that person be able to legally make health care decisions on behalf of your parents if need be; they will also have the right to access medical records to the extent that it's allowed under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

  5. 3. Make estate-planning documents a priority1.
    Some aging parents may be reluctant to share details of their estate plan with living children, so when you talk with your parents, respect their need for privacy. It doesn't really matter what’s in the will; the most important thing is that there is a will and that you or others in your family know where to find it.

    You may also want to talk with your parents about establishing a trust as part of their estate plan. By titling assets in the name of a trust (as opposed to a will), the assets can be transferred to beneficiaries without going through the public court process known as probate. In other words, your parents' wishes about who gets what can remain private.

  6. 4. Approach finances delicately.
    Even if your parents are financially stable, they may not be comfortable sharing the specifics of their wealth with you. Don't press them for specifics. Instead, talk with them about the importance of naming a financial power of attorney who can manage their finances if they become incapacitated. And learn the names of their financial professional and attorney so you’ll know where to get the details if a financial issue arises.

By having an open, honest dialog about these important issues, your parents will rest assured knowing their wishes will be honored. And you'll know you're providing the care they desire.

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