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5 Steps to Help Care for Elderly Parents

One of the toughest things you will do as an adult is watch as your parents deteriorate with age. Emotionally, it is taxing to watch the very people or person who cared for you as a child slowly become more and more dependent on you for support. The emotional strain can be difficult enough, but other factors, such as medical costs, deciding the best way to care for them and how their assets will be utilized in aiding with this care, can cause even more frustration.

While these are not easy decisions, the sooner you start thinking about them and getting organized, the better it will be for you and them in the long run. Here are five steps to take when it comes to caring for your aging parents.

Start Talking

This seems simple enough, but the longer you wait to do it, the worse off it will be. You want to talk with your parents about how and where they will live should they require help or living alone stops being a viable option. Talk to your parents about what assets they have, their monthly income, health care costs and more.

Everything doesn’t have to be discussed at once, as it can be overwhelming. However, knowing where your parents want to live as they age, or discussing the type of funeral and burial they would like to have can help you prepare for these things. This way, when it does occur, you won’t guessing your parents’ wishes.

Seek Help from Professionals on the Elderly

It’s smart to speak with a professional, such as a financial advisor or lawyer who handles estates. The benefits of speaking with someone like this is that they can tell you a great deal of information you may not have even thought of. They are knowledgeable in specific state requirements when it comes to wills, probate, establishing guardianship, etc., so you can be sure you are following proper regulations and guidelines.

Again, this is something you want to do early on, especially while your parents are still competent enough to make legal decisions over their lives. Should an elderly parent develop Alzheimer’s or dementia, you may end up needing to apply for guardianship in order to make the necessary decisions, which costs more money, time and effort.

Do Not Do It Alone

If you have siblings, it is a good idea to work together to help lessen the strain of taking care of your parents. As they age, chances increase greatly that your parents will need live-in care or have to move in with a family member. If this occurs, it is important to get your other siblings involved in the caretaking so all the responsibility does not fall on one child’s shoulders.

If you do not have siblings, you will want to look into how you can use your parents’ assets to pay for an in-home health aide or, in some cases, living in a nursing home. This is where speaking with an attorney will come in handy, as they will know the Medicare requirements and how the assets will be used to pay for any care that may be necessary.

Organize All the Paperwork

Having met with an attorney, you will have discovered that having paperwork–such as the deed to your parents’ home, insurance appraisal of the value of the home, life insurance policies, retirement account information, etc.–is all too necessary. These can help in pre-paying for funeral costs, healthcare costs and more.

It is best to know where this paperwork is and have it at the ready for when it’s needed. It’s also best to have copies of these forms in case you need to send them out anywhere. Usually, copies are suitable while you keep the original form, but be sure to ask whomever you are sending the form to if a copy is sufficient.

Take Over Gradually

One of the reasons it is best to start this process early is to give both you and your parents time to adjust to these changes. The last thing you want is to look up one day and realize you are knee-deep in caring for elderly parents without any warning or preparation.

Once you get the ball rolling by opening up a dialogue and speaking with the necessary professionals, you should ease into taking over your parents’ finances and other care. It is important, though, that your parents retain some sense of autonomy for their own sense of well-being. But acclimating yourself with your parents’ doctors, adding your name to parents’ bank accounts, etc. are some ways to slowly take over for your parents.

Photo credit: flickr

Tiffany Patterson Tiffany Patterson has a BA in Political Science from Temple University and an MBA from La Salle University Business School with a concentration in Finance. She is an expert on topics including home buying, life insurance and credit cards. She believes how we treat our finances can have a lasting impact on our lives for years to come. Tiffany loves researching and writing on topics that will help readers lead better lives.
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