Tips on Assisting Aging Parents with Their Finances
As your parents age, it may become more difficult for them to handle financial responsibilities on their own. Relinquishing independence, especially on financial matters, is often a sensitive topic and should be broached carefully, but it is also important not to delay this important conversation until it’s too late. Ensuring your loved ones are financially secure grants peace of mind to all parties involved.
Here are a few topics to consider in your conversation:
- Legal Matters: Discussing legal matters, such as whether or not your parents have an estate plan and power of attorney, knowing your parents’ attorney, and understanding the legal documents in your parent’s possession are vital to prevent any undue stress if your parent is incapacitated or passes away.
- Healthcare: Health problems are a fact of life that comes with age. Understanding your parent’s medical insurance plan, long-term care plan, and all coverages involved are key to ensuring your parents have the finances they need for any possible health problems that may arise.
- Financial Accounts: With the help of a financial professional, go over income and expenses with your parent and help make adjustments to financial portfolios or living expenses as needed to ensure your loved one can live comfortably and securely. Make sure you also know where they store essential financial information, such as bank account information and tax returns, to protect them from identity theft.
Here a few tips to approach assisting an aging family member with financial responsibilities:
- Be Alert: If you notice your parent is missing appointments, forgetting dates, or losing things with increasing frequency, these may be signs of declining memory, dementia or depression. Ask about attending doctors’ appointments with your parent. Also look for signs of neglect around the home such as unpaid bills or untended rooms.
- Be Sensitive: Finances and independence are personal, often delicate subjects. Rather than assume full control, offer guidance to your parent by offering to assist them with online banking or bill pay. This gives you inside knowledge about your parent’s financial situation, but grants a certain level of independence to your parent as well.
- Share the Burden: Reach out to other important people in your parent’s life such as your siblings, family friends, church members, or trusted neighbors. Caregivers and others close to your parent can provide important information about changes in behavior and can help everyone keep track of your parent’s wellbeing. Sharing responsibilities with other family members and trusted individuals requires clear and constant communication to ensure all of your parent’s needs are met, but sharing the burden with others can greatly assist in maintaining your own mental, physical, and emotional health at the same time.
- Have a Power of Attorney: In case important legal decisions must be made, it is critical that you have power of attorney or know who does. Particularly if a parent’s decision-making ability declines, you should know who has access and control over important decisions that affect your parent’s wellbeing according to his or her wishes. Keep lines of communication with other family members open so there is as little conflict or confusion as possible. Be clear about who has power of attorney and how certain issues ought to be approached.
Aging comes with many challenges, whether it is dealing with dementia or suddenly realizing your parent cannot pay his or her bills. Waiting until it is too late often has unfortunate consequences that cause undue stress on the entire family and exacerbates the situation, so the most important thing to do is start discussions with your parent as soon as possible should the worst come to pass and offer peace of mind to the entire family.