Special thanks to Sarah Willink, LMSW, MASM, Social Worker / Case Manager for Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan for contributing to this article.
There is no doubt, one of life’s more difficult challenges comes in caring for aging parents. Many of us currently or will someday face this task. Preparation and communication are two key items in lessening the emotional burden placed on adult children caring for their aging parents.
It is a good idea to be proactive rather than reactive, always have a plan! Doing so often prevents one having to make these tough decisions in the midst of a crisis such as death or after faculties are diminished. This is not an exhaustive list, but it could stand as a “first things first” type of checklist. This conversation and checklist should be covered as soon as possible, and revisited as things change throughout the year.
- Make a list of emergency contacts
- Create a contact chain. Who contacts who in the event of a crisis?
- Do your parents have a safe deposit box? Where is it located?
- Assess their needs. Are they comfortable in their home? Are they able to care for themselves?
- Make a list of their healthcare providers and contact information
- List of prescription medication
- Discuss any pertinent health concerns
Finance and Insurance:
- List banks and brokerage accounts
- IRAs and employer retirement plans
- Contact information for financial advisor
- Make a list of life insurance policies — include company names and policy numbers.
- Discuss any disability or long term care policies that are in place. What do they cover?
- It might be a good idea to sit in on an annual review with your parents’ financial advisor to better learn about their estate.
- Be sure all beneficiary information is up to date.
- Review Social Security benefits
- Do they have an insurance policy or savings in place for long-term care living arrangements?
- Make copies of legal documents and contact information for legal advisor
- Discuss the will — is it current, and where is it located?
- Do they have a healthcare directive? Do they have this information in an easily accessed place?
- Do they have a durable power of attorney?
It may be a good idea to set up an annual meeting regarding these matters with your parents. Evaluate their needs often and discuss the type of care required for the upcoming year. It may be necessary to speak with a physician or social worker to regularly assess the mental and physical capabilities of your parents.
We hope this list provides a good starting point for a conversation with your aging parents. With the upcoming holidays, this may be the ideal time to do so. This is not always a fun or easy discussion to have but it has been our experience that families who are proactive are always thankful that they were diligent about planning ahead of time!