Caring for aging parents and loved ones

A younger man with an older adult

Caring for an aging parent or loved one is an invaluable form of support, but it can feel stressful and overwhelming as it often comes with unique financial, medical and legacy challenges.

For some, the caregiving journey is a gradual process of increasing support to loved ones. For others, a significant health or financial event prompts caregiving responsibilities unexpectedly.

No matter your role, our team, along with other professionals, will provide advice on how to navigate the complex dynamic of caring for elderly parents.?

While every family situation is different, this guide to caring for elderly parents can help you manage their finances, prioritize their wellbeing, and control your stress:

1. Clarify roles and responsibilities

Caring for aging parents is a partnership. As such, gather your family members for an initial conversation to help define roles and responsibilities. Regularly revisit the roles and responsibilities as needs and capacities change over time. It’s also important to learn and confirm the wishes and preferences of those being cared for.

Common caregiving tasks to address may include:

Health and financial support

Personal support

Practical support

  • Health care planning
  • Financial assistance
  • Personal care
  • Companionship
  • Care coordination
  • Home cleaning
  • Home maintenance
  • Transportation
  • Errands/shopping

Who takes on these caregiving tasks in your family may be influenced by:

  • Health status of your loved one
  • Level of assistance your loved one needs
  • Proximity of relatives to their geographic location
  • Your loved one’s living situation

2. Stay connected and informed on finances

It’s common for an adult child to provide general oversight or help manage parents’ or loved ones’ finances as they age. Here are a few questions to consider:

  • Does the situation necessitate a financial power of attorney to keep their finances secure? Certain circumstances may warrant naming a financial power of attorney, who is legally designated to financially act on your loved ones’ behalf if they are no longer able to.
  • Do your loved ones need help tracking income and expenses? To help them make the most of their retirement income, consider asking to review their monthly inflows and outflows.
  • Do you know where important financial documents are? Help identify and store copies of important documents in a secure electronic file. With their permission, you can also help securely store applicable passwords.
  • Do they have a financial advisor you can meet? Consider asking your loved ones if you can accompany them to meetings with their financial advisor to stay informed, take notes and further understand their financial values. This also may be a good opportunity to review their expenses and identify cost-saving and investment opportunities that may exist. And if they don’t have a financial advisor, consider introducing them to yours.

3. Review insurance policies

In addition to managing your parents’ or your loved one’s finances, familiarize yourself with their insurance policies. Ask permission to closely review the policy details to determine if the policy is up to date and the coverage meets their needs. Specifically, confirm that the correct beneficiaries are listed.

Your loved one may have one or more policies, including:

  • Auto
  • Home
  • Liability
  • Life
  • Long-term care
  • Medical

4. Watch for financial fraud

Aging individuals are often at higher risk of becoming a victim of financial fraud and identity theft. You can help to financially protect your aging parents or loved ones by:

  • Setting up alerts: Receive alerts for every transaction over a certain dollar amount on your loved one’s account.
  • Reviewing credit reports: Work with your loved one to obtain and review their annual credit reports.
  • Implementing a security freeze: You may want to put a freeze on your loved one’s credit reports to prevent an unauthorized party from making a credit inquiry.
  • Bringing examples of financial fraud to their attention: Remind your loved one regularly about common red flags to watch for.
  • Becoming a “trusted person” on their financial accounts: This gives the bank or other financial institutions permission to contact you with questions about the account or discuss irregular activity.

5. Manage health information

Caring for aging parents requires becoming familiar with their health care, regardless of whether they have a current medical condition. Here are a few actions to consider:

  • Confirm they have an advanced directive and health care proxy: An advanced directive (also known as a living will or health care directive) is a legal document that outlines what kind of medical care your loved ones want — and don’t want — if they are unable to make those decisions for themselves. A health care proxy names the person with legal authorization to make health care decisions for your loved one if they become incapable of making those decisions themselves. Help ensure appropriate agents are named to make those important decisions.
  • Know their health care providers and medical insurance: Consider asking permission to attend medical appointments to get to know their providers. Keep a document with provider names, insurance carriers, specialties and contact information.
  • Access important health information: To further support your loved one’s health, you can obtain access to their medical records with their consent (health records are usually available via a secure online portal like MyChart.) If your aging parent qualifies as a veteran, you may want to explore their Veterans Administration (VA) benefits and learn what medical coverage the VA offers.

6. Understand their legacy wishes

To stay informed on your loved one’s wishes, set aside time to facilitate a legacy conversation and go over the details of their estate plan. Ensure all heirs attend or record the discussion, so everyone hears the estate plan details firsthand and can ask questions.

As a part of the estate plan conversation, identify and gather key documents.

Documents may include:

  • Bank and investment account information and statements
  • Birth/marriage/divorce certificates
  • Insurance information
  • Military discharge documentation
  • Power of Attorney/health proxies
  • Property/car titles
  • Social Security cards
  • Tax returns
  • Will

Remember, you’re not alone

As loved ones age, it’s normal for families to find themselves providing more support. Taking proactive actions now can reduce stressors for you and your loved one later. Our team, along with medical and legal professionals, will help to guide you through the challenges of caring for elderly parents and how to financially help them as they age.