Watching a parent decline, cognitively and physically, can be one of the most painful experiences in life. As your mom and dad age, they may realize they are no longer able to manage their own affairs. Lovingly, the family must unite to prepare for their future needs. These preparations may not be easy, but they are also not as overwhelming as you may fear.
In a two-part series, I am sharing the four most important areas to focus on: Communication and Responsibilities and Healthcare; and Financial Matters and Taking Care of the House. Part I covered Communication and Responsibilities and Healthcare (See: How Do I Help Mom and Dad as They Age: Part I); Part II, below, covers Financial Matters and Taking Care of the House. I’ll offer some concrete steps for families to take in each area.
Set up a processes and safeguards to cover bills, policies and financial information. Here are some specific steps to take:
- Have bills mailed to the home address, not sent electronically where they are easily missed. The trusted agent can help discuss and verify bills are being properly paid and are not duplicates.
- Create a separate checking account for discretionary spending that the parent can control, with limited overdraft protection. Money for major bills and savings can be kept in a separate account that requires a dual signature on checks or ongoing auto drafts. Have account balances and transaction alerts sent to parents, the trusted agent and family members to help reduce errors or fraud.
- If possible, have a power of attorney on file with Social Security and Medicare so that the trusted agent can discuss financial issues with these organizations. Common power of attorney forms do not provide such authorization.
- Alert insurance companies to send copies of statements and premium notices to the agent, parents and family members.
- Parents, the trusted agent and potentially, family members, can get copies of the annual credit report and review credit and debt accounts. Close unnecessary lines of credit and put a freeze on the ability to add credit without written authorization by the parent or agent to avoid impulsive changes.
Taking Care of the House
Make your parents’ home safe for now and the future. Consider finding a handyman, so your elderly parent does not attempt to climb ladders, mow lawns, or do home maintenance that could risk their health. Survey the home and consider upgrades, including:
- Installing safer non-slip flooring and more safety rails;
- Increasing lighting by steps, doors and outside;
- Installing emergency alarm systems that can be connected to devices that detect falls or health changes like heart or blood pressure changes;
- Replacing electric/ battery candles with traditional flaming candles;
- Moving kitchen dishware, utensils, and items located on high shelves, so your parents can avoid lifting heavy objects over chest height; and
- Moving bedrooms, laundry rooms, and outside walkways to reduce the need to use steps or walk on slippery surfaces.
Aging is expensive and inevitable, but handled well, it can be a process that builds love and trust in your family. A CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional can help you plan for the uncertainties ahead.