As our parents age, it can be difficult to figure out the proper steps for their care. Are your parents open to conversations or more closed off? Do they have their finances in order, or are they unsure of what to do themselves? Older folks who are facing these issues can feel unseen because everyone tends to avoid these potentially uncomfortable conversations. Here are some actions that you can take to start the conversation.
- Have the conversation with everyone who will be involved in caring for your parents. This can include siblings, spouses, close friends or your own children.
- Ask if they have a list (or if you can help them make a list) of their financial accounts, bill pay information and account passwords. Other items to consider: Do they have a car title, safe deposit box, safe, computer password, phone password, home security system password, extra keys to their car/home?
- Ask if they have estate planning documents, a will, who their beneficiaries are and where those documents are located. Who is the executor of their will if they have one?
- If they don’t have estate planning documents, ask if they have beneficiaries on all of their accounts. Consider helping them get estate planning documents.
- Make a list of and connect with your parents’ tax preparer, attorney and financial planner.
- Make a list of their doctors and their prescriptions.
- If you suspect cognitive decline, ask to help with paying their bills and monitor their cash flow. Consider reviewing your parents’ credit report or freezing their credit.
- Have a list of their assets and their debts.
- Know what their wishes are for funeral, burial, cremation, etc.
- Talk about progression of age and possibly living alone. Ask what their preferences are should they ever need living assistance—Would they prefer to move to a facility or bring in a care giver? Note that some of the best assisted living facilities may have lengthy wait lists.
- If you are having trouble getting answers from your parents, continue to follow up with them.
Talking about aging and death can be emotional for every person involved. But it is an important conversation to have before it becomes urgent. It allows for the aging person to be seen and to be heard, and it can bring relief and comfort. For help with this process, please reach out to us.