Trust and estate and elder law attorneys, as well as geriatric professionals, all stress the importance of planning for the future. Key topics include financial and legal issues, healthcare arrangements, and the known or stated wants and needs of your parent.
Because the laws regarding legal, financial, and healthcare issues may vary from state to state, it’s a good idea to retain an expert advisor in your parent’s home state. Check with the professionals in your community for a referral.
Wants and Needs
Designate a private time when you can talk to involved family members. If your parent is able to participate, try to include him in the discussion.
Set the ground rules at the beginning for openness, honesty, and listening quietly so that each person can speak freely without fear of angering others. You need to discuss living arrangements – will your parent stay home, move into an assisted living community, or enter a skilled nursing home?
Take notes and make certain everyone receives a copy of the decisions that come out of this meeting.
Legal and Financial Issues
Depending on your parent’s condition, suggest that he review existing legal and financial documents with an attorney or financial advisor. Or, make an appointment with a trust and estate attorney or an elder law attorney to discuss the need for and drafting of pertinent legal documents such as a power of attorney, durable power of attorney, living will, healthcare proxy, trust, last will and testament, and when necessary, guardianship documents.
Gather and organize as many legal and financial documents as you can prior to the appointment. Some of the documents may not be readily available – your mother may have no idea where your father kept them, or she may have misplaced them or may have put them in a ‘safe’ place which she can no longer remember.
Geriatric professionals understand the difficulty of organizing documents and may be able to obtain some of the information they need by speaking to your parent’s lawyer, accountant, or bank officer.
“By the time we took over, my mother was totally out of it. My father had MS and was too sick to be of much help. Mom’s friends and sisters told us she had been putting away money for years in case of an emergency. Mom never told them where the money was, and we were lucky if she remembered who we were, let alone what money was. That was thirty-five years ago. My sister, brother, and I still talk about that money. We still wonder whether or not it ever existed and if it did, how much did we lose?”
It is unavoidable that at some time in the course of the illness, your parent will need care. It may begin as part-time in-home care and may advance to in-home or nursing home custodial care. That means 24-hour/7-day care and assistance with all daily needs, from family, nurses, nurses aides, or physicians.
The types of care that are available and the costs for care vary from state to state and community to community. You will need to understand what type of insurance your parent has, the exact coverage, the amount of the benefits, the period of time that is covered, and how to activate the benefits.
Get help from a geriatric professional who specializes in these matters. Making life-altering plans and decisions can be frustrating at the best of times. Take these 3 steps to help alleviate some of the stress and worry:
You can now make your decision knowing that whatever lies ahead, you were thoughtful, diligent, and in the end, you chose the best plan for your parent, your family, and for yourself.