Ask St. Ann’s – When Is A Good Time To Talk To My Aging Parents About Finances?

One of the most meaningful things adult children can do for aging parents is to honor their wishes regarding eldercare. There’s no better time than the present to ask about their plans to ensure they have the resources necessary to receive the quality of care they may need in the future.

Engaging a loved one in the often well-guarded subject of finances takes time and patience because seniors may not want to ask for help, even when they need it. Experts at St. Ann’s Community offer the following tips to help you ease into the conversation.

Start talking now

Talk with your loved one about the future before the added stress of an emergency enters the mix. When you visit, are there signs help may be needed such as stacks of unpaid bills, maintenance issues or a lack of groceries?

Daily living tasks like these are good conversation starters. Ask what supports can be put in place now, like setting up automatic bill pay or a home shopping service, to help your parents remain as independent as possible. Also, talk with other family members about how they can support your parents so you can preserve financial resources for future eldercare needs.

Help organize important information

Are you able to pay a bill or handle a transaction on your parents’ behalf in the event of a health emergency? Work with them to gather financial and health information early on so you understand their obligations and what resources are available to pay expenses. Store this information in a safe place so you and other fiduciaries can access it easily.

Another important document is a power of attorney that indicates who your parent(s) appointed to manage their affairs if they become unable to do so. If they don’t have one, put that at the top of your to-do list.

Other common essential documents to look for include:

• Mortgage and loan debt, including all credit card accounts

• Monthly utility and household bills

• Bank account statements

• Retirement accounts and social security income statements

• Mutual funds, brokerage accounts, stock certificates, savings bonds

• Insurance policies (Medicare, Medicaid, health, and long-term care)

• Property deeds and titles

• Recent tax returns

• Doctors’ names and contact information

• Health care proxy: Who is it and does this person have a good understanding of your loved one’s health condition, medical history, medications, and end-of-life wishes?

Guidance from professionals

Consider talking with eldercare professionals to help your parents review the big picture and make informed decisions. Be sure to include family members with decision-making power in these meetings from the very beginning to assure that everyone is on the same page.

In time, doing small tasks to support your parents’ independence or helping gather financial, healthcare, and legal documents will help your parents see you are there to help. By talking to your parents while their health is good, you’ll have a plan in place to truly honor their eldercare wishes.

 Sharon Osborne is Executive Director of Transitional Care Center (TCC) and Rehabilitation Services at St. Ann’s, a senior community offering a full continuum of care in Rochester. Email her at sosborne@mystanns.com, call 585-697-6483 or visit www.stannscommunity.com.