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5 Ways to Help Aging Parents Plan for the Future

9.14.17As our parents get older and begin to lose their independence, many will turn to their adult children to help them navigate the complicated and costly world of long-term care.

Yet for adult children already caring for young kids of their own, this new role of “caregiver” can be a difficult one to assume. It’s no wonder this group of people is known as the “Sandwich Generation” as they are literally ‘sandwiched’ between the pressures of raising a family, holding down a job and managing mom or dad’s growing medical and financial needs. July is known as Sandwich Generation month, where, as a country, we honor the struggles faced by this demographic—and their growing needs.

Planning Ahead is The Key to Retaining Control

Medical and long-term care needs for aging parents can be overwhelming, and Sandwich Generation kids can be tempted to “bury their heads in the sand.” However, failing to talk about and plan for an older parent’s needs can cause the family to miss out on important benefits, long-term care opportunities, and the ability to stay in controlduring mom or dad’s final years.

Remember—if you don’t make financial and medical decisions within your family, the courts will do it for you. Creating a plan in advance, while your parents still have the chance to have a say in their care and decisions, can make life easier for everyone involved.

5 Legal Planning Steps to Take

Elder law attorneys such as myself often recommend the following five planning steps to help ensure aging parents are afforded the most protection, flexibility, and financial security, while helping the adult child retain life balance and personal sanity:

1. Find out if your parents have an estate plan and whether it’s been updated in the past five years- The will, trust, powers of attorney, and health care directives your parents created years ago may not reflect their current wishes and long-term care needs now. Find out what they have in place and have it reviewed by an attorney to ensure their documents have stayed up to date as their life and the law has changed through the years.

2. Determine How You’ll Pay for Long-Term Care- Nursing home and assisted living facilities can cost up to $8,000 a month, and Medicare will not pick up the tab. In-home care can be equally burdensome for the average family. Medi-Cal may pay, provided you are hovering around the poverty level. The only other option is to pay out of pocket—unless, of course, you plan ahead. By acting in advance and not waiting until your hands are tied in a crisis, tools such as long-term care insurance, trusts, and annuities may be available to help your parents pay for their care without losing everything they’ve worked so hard for.

3. Get the Legal Authority You Need Now to Manage Their Affairs and Maintain Control- If your parents do not have powers of attorney or health care directives that allow you to communicate with doctors, access medical records, and manage their financial affairs, it’s a good idea to create them now while mom or dad is still in good health. Otherwise, if a sudden medical crisis strikes, or your parents no longer have the mental capacity to sign legal documents down the road, you’ll be forced to petition a court for control (read: major time and money lost).

4. Document Their End-of-Life Wishes- Thousands of families each year are torn apart trying to decide what their loved one “would have wanted” in serious medical situations. Avoid the stress and conflict by asking your parents their wishes about things such as life support, feeding tubes, organ donation, etc., and legally document their choices to ensure everyone is on the same page.

5. Get Organized Now to Avoid Last Minute Scrambling- Gather your parent’s important information now to avoid any confusion and delays in the event of a medical emergency. Some important documents to collect would include their insurance information, front and back of all ID cards including driver’s license, prescription cards, military ID card, prior medical history, names and numbers of doctors, copies of their living will, health care directives and a list of current medication and doses.

By being proactive and planning for these issues in advance, you can help make sure your parents always receive the care they need without worry or financial struggle. You’ll further avoid many costly legal headaches that adult children face when they are not prepared for their parent’s incapacity or ongoing care needs. It’s never too early to get started, so begin to take steps now to put plans in place that protect your parents, their assets, and your own sanity during mom and dad’s golden years.

If you like what you’ve read here and are interested in reading more, buy the book,

“Oh My God! We’re Parenting Our Parents: How To Transform This Remarkable Challenge Into A Journey of Love.

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