I was reading recently about the need for children to be aware of, and involved in, the personal and financial affairs of older parents for whom they may eventually become caregivers. This involvement is especially important before a parent becomes incapacitated or otherwise unable to properly and easily participate in discussing caregiving issues with children or other loved ones. The same applies for a younger relative who will have caregiver responsibility for an older relative in the future.
Discussion of the parent’s current or future desires and needs regarding healthcare, finances and personal property is a prudent step for all parties who will potentially be involved.
Having these discussions earlier in life, rather than later, reduces the possibility of difficult discussions with parents or siblings after a loved one becomes incapacitated or impaired.
Children may need to take the initiative with their parents. Parents in turn must be open, honest and responsive with their children. The process should be collaborative and honesty on all sides is essential.
It may be necessary, or beneficial, to divide responsibility for various things such as personal or day-to-day care, transportation, finances, healthcare and housing. Siblings may have different roles for which they are best suited. Children who live at a distance should consider taking on responsibilities that do not require them to be close by. Expectations should be discussed and understood by all involved.
Questions to consider include:
– Do elderly parents have enough money to live on or will financial assistance be needed?
– Who will elderly parents live with when they can no longer live on their own?
– How will assisted living or nursing home accommodations be paid for?
– Who will provide transportation when parents can no longer drive themselves?
– Who will manage, or at least keep an eye on, finances?
– Who will manage medical and healthcare issues?
– Is long-term care insurance needed or already in place?
As part of this process take steps to be sure that insurance, wills, powers of attorney for finances and healthcare and other critical documents are up to date and that their location is known.
Discuss “who gets what” as far as inherited items ahead of time to reduce the potential for conflict down the road. That is, resolve who will receive items that may be desired, or expected, by two or more people.
Even if it is uncomfortable to address, or to even think about, these types of questions and issues, doing so will make things easier in the long run.
A couple things to keep in mind as you begin the new year:
– As you work toward filing your 2011 tax return don’t forget actions you can take before April 15 which are tax-favorable for 2011. For example, make IRA contributions for 2011.
– If you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) and did not use up your 2011 funds by December, plan to use the funds in the first two months of 2012 rather than lose that money.