Most of us accept that as we age, we begin to slow down. Physical changes— graying hair, an expanding waistline, shuffling more than walking, shortness of breath—are obvious and usually gradual, but signs of our mental decline can be more insidious and easier to deny.
When our own parents, who for most of our lives were robust, capable and independent, start showing signs of diminished capacity, we may be very reluctant to recognize the inevitable changes. After all, accepting our parents’ aging and mortality puts us closer to our own.
Change in the air
Besides slowing down physically, our parents’ cognitive abilities also decline as they head into their golden years, and while these changes vary greatly among seniors, it is inevitable that our folks will need assistance at some point.
Personal financial issues always require attention and diligence but can become especially overwhelming to a person who is no longer sharp and alert enough to tend to them properly. Did you know that more than 75 percent of people over age 25 have not talked about important money matters with their parents?
We may be reluctant to admit theses changes in our beloved parents, but with 5 to 10 percent of older U.S. adults needing help managing their finances, the sooner we can help our parents assess, sort out, and take control of their money, the better it is for the whole family.
Even if your parents still seem capable of managing their finances or may be reluctant to discuss money issues with you, some things should serve as red flags that they need help.
Are there stacks of unopened mail sitting on the kitchen table?
Are bills going unpaid or being overpaid?
Do credit or debit card statements reveal any unusual purchases?
Any evidence of fraud or phishing?
If you notice your parents having more and more difficulty with daily life tasks such as toileting, dressing, or eating, it is likely also getting tougher for them to deal with the complexities of money management. As daunting as it may seem, especially with your own life and family to manage, here are 7 ways to make this important life transition go smoothly.
- No matter how emotionally challenging, start a financial discussion with your parents. The sooner the better, even if they now seem capable and in charge. Without warning, a parent could fall ill or even pass away, so have the conversation while you still can, and have it frequently.
- Gather details about and contacts for essential financial information. A list with names, phone numbers, and passwords for insurance, bank accounts, social security numbers, safe deposit boxes and similar information will be a helpful time saver. Ensure that you have access to all their passwords.
- Make sure your parents have designated a power of attorney, which is a legal, signed document given to one or more people that grants them the authority to manage your money and property in the event you are unable to do so. While that person need not be an attorney, he or she should be trustworthy and financially astute enough to take over if a parent becomes unable to manage money matters.
- Ensure that your parents have a proper will clearly stating their last wishes and any estate planning. Without a will, the government will take matters into their own hands, and all of your parents’ assets will be frozen and inaccessible during the lengthy process.
- If the task of managing your parents’ money is more than you want to take on, consider hiring a daily money manager for help with paying bills, dealing with mail, and negotiating with creditors. The manager can also keep an eye on the overall situation, making sure Mom or Dad is keeping up with personal hygiene and taking any medications properly. The tasks performed by a daily manger will free up time for the family to spend enjoying their parents’ company rather than paying bills.
- Set up automatic payments. We could all use reminders when bills come due, but automatic payments will ensure that your parents leave no bills unpaid, eliminate pesky late fees, and do no damage to their credit rating.
- Discuss with your parents their plans and desires for future living arrangements and the financial realities of such arrangements. Will they be able to stay in their home with assistance from family (if needed) and professional caregivers? Will they move in with one of their children or opt for an active retirement community? Will any of their insurance policies provide for future long-term care or in-home care?
While overwhelming, caring for aging parents can be a rewarding and enriching experience. Taking control and helping them navigate through tricky financial waters will ultimately make life easier for everyone and enhance their remaining quality of life.
If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation. Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.
Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care, Bed & Wheelchair Transfer Assistance, Companionship, Housekeeping & Meal Preparation, Personal Care, Recovery Care, and Transportation.