It is Never too Early to Start Planning How to Care for Your Parents

There are some things in life we’d rather not think about, which usually means we don’t bother planning for them. Aging parents and their changing needs is often one of those things. The truth of the matter is that your parents are going to get older and you may have to make some important decisions in the future. You might think your parents are going to go on forever, but if you keep denying the facts, you’ll end up with a wealth of problems, stresses, and even a caregiver illness or depression. The sooner you sit your parents down and have a conversation with them about their future, the better it will be for everyone. You’ll be able to help them make plans and have an understanding of how they want to spend their twilight years.

It’s up to you to address some of the potential issues, even though the conversation might feel uncomfortable. Reassure your parents that you’re not trying to control their lives or take advantage of them, but it is in their best interests to talk about their future with you. Here are some of the issues, plans, and decisions you should be discussing with your parents.

The Possibility of Long-Term Care

There’s no way of knowing whether your parents will need long-term care, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be discussed. Research is showing that the duration and level of long-term care is going to change over time. There’s a strong chance of an elderly person needing some kind of long-term care at some point in their later life. If you can talk to your parents about their wants and needs, you’ll be able to plan ahead and make financial preparations. You’re going to need to make decisions together about health, housing, financial and legal issues.

A power of attorney is something they need to think about because an increasing number of elder people are having to live with dementia. A POA allows the bearer to make financial and/or medical decisions on behalf of the grantor. This includes the selling of property, paying off bills and taxes, canceling services and making end-of-life decisions. It is a heavy responsibility, but it can make life much easier in the event of a crisis. Your parents, therefore, need to decide who will be able to shoulder such a responsibility should it be necessary. Planning this when a person is still of sound mind is important because some lawyers refuse to facilitate a POA once a person has been diagnosed with dementia. Without a POA, things can get very difficult, especially if a person is refusing treatment.

A Living Trust

You all know the importance of having a will, but do you know the benefits of creating a living trust? It’s a document that provides details of the beneficiaries of a person’s assets. This might sound the same as a will, but there is one important difference. Any assets included in a properly executed living trust do not go to probate. The legal process of distributing property after a person dies can be very time-consuming and tedious.

As long as your parents are strong and lucid, they can set up a living trust and avoid the legal and administrative nightmare of going to probate. It’s often a little more expensive than drawing up a will, but it will mean your parents can protect their wealth.

Transportation Needs

How long do you think your parents will be fit to drive? It’s possibly the last shred of independence they’ll want to let go of. You need to think about how you’re going to convince them they’re no longer able to drive. As well as protecting your parents it’s your responsibility to protect other road users. Is there a plan for when your parents can no longer drive themselves?

Housing Options

Will your parents want to stay in their own home for as long as possible? How are you going to cater to their needs if they need round-the-clock care? You may need to look into the possibility of finding them a place in an assisted living facility. Is there a possibility you could take over the caregiving responsibility and have them come to live with you? Talk to your parents about the different options, comparing costs and benefits and whether anything can be covered by long-term care insurance. It pays to have a budget and plan in place before your parents need to move or get long-term help.

How to Start the Conversation

This is probably going to be as awkward a conversation as the one you had with your parents about the birds and the bees. The shoe, however, is on the other foot now and it’s you that’s going to have to initiate the conversation. It’s never too early to have the talk and studies are actually showing that people over the age of 65 are already starting to worry about being a burden to their children. So, there’s no time like the present. Here are a few tips to help break the ice.

  • Ask them about their plans for the future, for example, can they see themselves living in the same house when all the kids have all moved out? 
  • Ask them if they’ve got any long-term care insurance and whether it suits their future plans.
  • Discuss some of the articles you might have read or TV programs you’ve watched about people caring for their parents. Hypothetical questions are always a good way to broach difficult subjects.
  • The direct approach can work for some parents so don’t be afraid to ask about their plans outright if you think they’ll be happy to talk about it. You know your parents better than anyone else after all.

Getting your parents to talk about their future may be difficult to start with, but once the ball is rolling, you’ll be glad you were brave enough to bring the subject up. Being open about their thoughts, needs and future goals will help avoid difficult and sometimes costly situations further down the road.