1. The Difficult Discussion
Have this discussion before a crisis forces the family to make decisions at a time of stress.
The longer you put the discussion off, the more difficult it becomes. Aging parents do not want to lose their independence. Have discussions with your siblings, cousins, uncles and aunts, and others close to your parents about how they see mom and dad getting along. Dementia and Alzheimer’s are less obvious and come on more slowly than other conditions.
2. Legal Documents
Your parents need 4 documents in place which enable trusted others (perhaps you) to care for them.
a. A health care power of attorney enabling another to make health care decisions when they cannot.
b. A financial power of attorney enabling another to sign for them.
c. A HIPAA release of medical information.
d. An up-to-date last will and testament.
3. Financial Accounts
a. A listing of their financial assets: bank accounts, CDs, IRAs, employer retirement plans, brokerage accounts, etc.
b. A listing of their debts: home mortgage, car loans, home equity lines, credit card, etc. These should have the name of the institution, account numbers, phone numbers, and approximate balance.
4. Income Statements
a. A listing of income received: Social Security check, pension, interest and dividends, minimum distribution from IRA’s, plus any other income which comes in regularly.
b. A listing of regular bills that must be paid: rent or mortgage, utilities, insurance, loan payments, contributions to church, etc. These should have name of institution, account numbers, and phone numbers.
5. Insurance Policies
A listing of Medicare supplement, Medicare Part D, long-term care insurance, life insurance, annuities, homeowners insurance, care insurance, liability insurance. This list should include insurance company name, policy number, and phone number. The most recent bills or statements from the insurance company have this information on it.
6. Health Information
The easiest place to start is a complete listing of all their prescription medication, medication dosage, and prescribing physician. Then list other health conditions where there are no medications currently.
7. Income Taxes
Locate copies of the last 2-3 years of tax returns. Long-term care costs can be a deductible medical expense. Many people are behind in tax filing due to dementia.
8. Professional Assessment
Consider hiring an aging care professional to assess mom or dad and assist you in care and lifestyle discussions (aginglifecare.org). Meet with a financial planner experienced with long-term care to plan for care expenses.
9. Veterans Benefits
If mom or dad served in the military, they might be eligible for Veterans Aid and Attendance. Locate discharge papers or write to the VA for a copy. Spouses of veterans are eligible too. A veterans-accredited attorney in your area can be found at www.va.gov/ogc/apps/accreditation.
10. Home Health Care
Home health agencies can provide assistance with bathing, dressing, meals, transferring, cleaning, shopping, errands, and companion services. A professional plan of care can keep mom or dad in their own home possibly for the rest of their life.
Hans Scheil is the author of “The Complete Cardinal Guide to Planning for and Living in Retirement” and the accompanying workbook. He can be reached at Hans@CardinalGuide.com.