Family Communication Helps Aging Parents – Monterey Herald
Helping aging parents manage their financial lives can be difficult. Family dynamics and legal constraints can make even simple tasks complex. If your parents are at a time when they are struggling with their finances, better communication with family can help them get the help they need.
Parents are sometimes reluctant to seek help even when bills go unpaid and credit scores go down. Keep an eye out for signs of financial stress and look for appropriate times to ask how they’re doing. If they feel that you are asking with a genuine desire to help them, they will be more likely to open up.
Siblings can also be a challenge. You may think that some of your siblings are not equipped with the skills or temperament to take care of your parents. Some siblings can be emotionally distant or even separated from the family. If possible, contact them and keep them informed. Trying to communicate early in the process will pay big dividends later when critical decisions need to be made.
One effective way to facilitate family communication is to organize regular family reunions. It is usually best for parents to call the first meeting, but this is not always possible. When planning the family reunion, set realistic goals for what you want to accomplish. Try to frame the meeting based on your family members’ ability to effectively manage materials. A family that has a history of good communication can probably go through more in one sitting than a family that never speaks. Most families will fare better if they organize a series of shorter, more focused meetings. By including the participants in the creation of the agenda, you will get an idea of which approach is best for your family.
You’ll want to do some groundwork before your first meeting. Work with your parents and their counselors to summarize their current situation. If your parents don’t cooperate, you may not be able to get very far. However, if they are open to your help, try to get answers to a few basic questions: What is their income by source? What are their monthly expenses? What are their investment accounts called? Who are the beneficiaries of retirement accounts and insurance policies? Who is registered on the deed at their home? Answering these questions will help you better understand your parents’ resources and will also help protect them from elder abuse.
You will also want to review your parents’ condition, including the physical care they need. Is their health insurance coverage adequate? How independent are they currently and how is this likely to change in the years to come? If they become less independent, how will their care be paid? Will they need the support of their families and if so, to what extent? With long-term care, the burden of care often falls on the daughters of the family. Is the family prepared for this? Starting the discussion before a crisis occurs will allow the family to address issues more constructively.
Finally, make sure that your parents ‘essential estate documents are up to date and reflect your parents’ wishes. This includes having an up-to-date will, an enduring health care power of attorney, and a designated health care attorney. If the documents have been around for a while, it is a good idea to have them reviewed by an estate planning lawyer. For example, durable powers of attorney for health care must be HIPPA compliant to be effective. If the document was created before 2001, it may not be HIPPA compliant and may not work the way your parents want it to.
Caring for parents in their later years can be a challenge, but it can also bring great joy. Better family communication can help your parents get the help they need.
Steven C. Merrell is an Investment Advisor and Partner at Monterey Private Wealth Inc. in Monterey. Send your questions regarding investing, taxes, retirement or estate planning to Steve Merrell, 2340 Garden Road Suite 202, Monterey 93940 or [email protected]