No one likes to admit it, but we’re all getting older. That also means our parents (and other loved ones) are getting older as well. And while it’s easy to deny that someone we care about isn’t as “with it” as they used to be, denial may only lead to more problems. Plus, there’s always the unexpected. So here's your how-to on preparing for your parents' senior years. Rather than turning a blind eye to what’s going on, or assuming everything will be just fine, being prepared for what’s to come can help avoid financial difficulties later on. If you’re caring for aging parents, be sure to check out all the resources available to seniors. And here are five more important considerations to keep in mind.
1. Wills and Other Documents
Make sure your parents have an up to date Will that reflects their wishes. It can be difficult to talk about this topic, but it is an important conversation to have. (Don’t worry, having the discussion won’t cause Mum or Dad to die any sooner!) Be sure you know where their Will is located and who their lawyer is; if they have neither, it’s time to consider both. You’ll also want to know where other important documents, such as life insurance policies and investments, are housed.
2. Power of Attorneys
Your parents should also have Power of Attorneys (POAs) for both Property and Personal Care. POAs are designated person(s) who are empowered to make decisions for someone under their care when that person is unable to make decisions for themselves. POAs become null and void when the person passes on—then the Will takes over.
3. Bank and Investment Accounts
At some point, it’s realistic for you or another loved one to be listed on your parent’s bank and/or investment accounts in case of a temporary illness, or worse. In doing so, bills can be paid without interruption and money will be easily accessible in case of emergency. A word of caution: Make sure the person added to the account is very trustworthy; you don’t want them using the money as their personal bank account. If this is cause for concern, then the POA for Property can come into play. The POA can designate that 2 or 3 of the people listed need to be signers, so that no one individual uses funds improperly.
4. Financial Organization
Make sure that your parents are staying on top of their finances. Are they paying their bills on time? Have they signed up for services they don’t need or use? Are they over-contributing to any charities? Sit down with your parents and discuss this with them. If all is well, they should be pleased that you care. If they are falling behind, they will be happy for your help. Depending on their state of mind, it may be necessary to take over, or you may just be able to offer help by pointing out unneeded expenses, creating a budget, or developing a filing system, so that their information is organized and available as needed, such as at tax time.
Make sure there is no one—whether it’s a friend, sibling, or other acquaintance—taking advantage of your parents. Many people prey on the elderly, and find ways to gain their trust in order to pull money from their bank account. If there appears to be odd withdrawals or monies missing that your parents can’t explain, be sure to question it in order to find answers.
Don't Wait Before It's Too Late
The five suggestions above are just some of the financial ways to assist your parents as they age—but there are many other considerations that should be discussed over the years. Do you know what your parents’ wishes are if they had a terminal illness? Do they want to be resuscitated? Do they want a burial or cremation? I know it’s hard, but these are some of the facts of life that should be discussed before times get tough.
I can tell you from experience that being prepared makes it much easier to deal with life as changes occur. My Dad recently suffered a stroke, but my brother, sister, and I were able to focus on his recovery rather than other issues because everything had been discussed and dealt with over the years. That relieved a lot of stress from an already stressful situation.
One last point—remember that your parents are adults, so they should be treated that way. They’ll understand the need to have these discussions and make these arrangements now rather than later. And if you need any help creating a budget for them, or if they have any outstanding debt that you're not sure how to address, you can always come in for a free counselling session with your parents (of course, with their consent) and can work a plan out together. Just call 1.800.267.2272 to book!
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