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The Basics About Caring for a Senior Parent

“The best time to plan for the care of an aging loved one, is before they need to be cared for. Here’s what you need to know to get started.”


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The very idea of being in charge of the people who taught you how to tie your shoes and drive a car can be emotional. Therefore, many people put off having the talk about caregiving, until an emergency presents itself. That’s not a good plan. Those of us in our 40s, 50s, and 60s will at some point need to be involved in taking care of a parent, including their finances, living arrangements, legal issues and medical care.

Where to start? Take it one step at a time.

Begin with a conversation about these issues, long before anyone is sick. Getting started in a crisis leads to increased anxiety and sometimes outright panic.

If you are worried that your parents or siblings will think you are after their money, think again. How you approach these topics will make the difference. Once a caregiving plan, legal and financial matters are addressed, you’ll all feel more comfortable. Start with a simple thought: “I/We want to make sure that your wishes are respected.”

Is there a lot of paperwork? Yes and no. By preparing in advance, you avoid digging through a scavenger hunt for insurance policies and bills and wills. You’ll know where the documents are and will be free to focus on the important things, such as taking care of and spending time with your aging parents.

You’ll need to have a Power of Attorney prepared. A Durable Power of Attorney means that the Power of Attorney will remain in effect, so the appointed agent may continue acting, even if the principal becomes mentally incapacitated. Power of Attorney can be limited or broad. However, it’s a good idea to build in periodic reports, as a system of checks and balances.

You’ll also need an advance directive. This is a document that protects an individual’s right to refuse medical treatment or to request treatment, if they are not able to make decisions on their own. Depending on the person’s needs, they may need a living will, a health care representative, designation of a conservator and an anatomical gift declaration. This is needed, if they want to make an “anatomical gift,” which is also known as an organ donation.

A will should also be prepared with the help of an estate planning attorney. An executor needs to be named. However, it’s also important that any accounts with beneficiary designations be checked to make sure that they reflect your parent’s wishes. Any beneficiary designations supersede the will and there’s no way to undo that. If they haven’t looked at their life insurance policies in decades, it’s time for a review.

Reference: Connecticut Magazine (Nov. 23, 2018) “Senior Caregiving 101”

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