How to Have Courageous Conversations With Elderly Parents
We can't avoid aging but we can take steps today to help ensure that we and our loved ones are physically safe and prepared financially and legally for the complications that aging often brings.
Perhaps you have parents or grandparents that you are concerned about. You may even currently be taking care of a loved one who has diminishing capacity. The upcoming holiday season can be a great time to be aware and attentive to some of the difficult issues and circumstances that may exist when diminishing capacity becomes a reality with our families.
As our population ages, the issue of elder care and, unfortunately, elder abuse, has taken a front seat.
To help us unpack the financial issues related to aging, we invited elder law and estate planning attorney Linda Tabory of Tabory Law to join the show today. Linda has more than 30 years of legal experience, including about 10 years spent working in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at 913-213-6585 in Overland Park, KS.
Thanks to the aging Baby Boomer generation, about one in every seven Americans is 65 years or older. That number is expected to continue rising for decades to come, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
As we age, it's important to make sure we have a plan in place. And not just a financial plan. Having a will, of course, is important. But we also need to have a plan to take care of ourselves and our loved ones in case we get sick or begin to experience diminished cognitive ability.
These issues can occur slowly over time and difficult to assess. These are not fun questions to address, but it's best to address them while you can and not wait until you have to. In today's episode, we tackle some tough questions so you can be prepared if the need arises.
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Insights On Being Prepared for Aging
1. Get your documents in place before a disability arises.
Now's the time to get some basic documents in place to protect assets in the event of disability. For example, it's important to have a durable power of attorney in place for healthcare and property. This document allows a designated person to make financial and medical decisions on behalf of someone that may become incapacitated.
2. Play to your family's strengths when determining who should help you or your parents as they age.
When Linda is dealing with mom and dad she likes to ask, "Who in the family would you trust or who do you plan to turn things over to?" This helps her "get a flavor for who in the family they rely on, who may be in the family they love, but they don't nearly think they handle money quite as well as they would like them to." Once Linda helps mom and dad identify their kids' strengths, it becomes easier to determine what role they should play in helping mom and dad should they become incapacitated. For example, if one of the kids is a doctor who lives 1,000 miles away, you probably don't want them responsible for paying mom and dad's bills.
3. Keep alert for the warning signs that a loved one may be experiencing diminishing capacity.
Memory loss, difficulty completing familiar tasks, confusion with time or place, misplacing things, withdrawal from work or social activities, and changes in mood or personality are just a few signs you or a loved one may be experiencing diminishing capacity. If you see this happening, get help. Linda said, "Parents are terrified of losing all control in their life. Most of them will say to me, 'I don't want to be a burden to my children.' It's like, 'Of course, you don't,' and you're standing there as a good son, saying, 'But you're not a burden to me. Let me help.'" It's a fine balance to step in and help while still letting your loved one feel some sense of control.
4. Elder abuse is a real issue and when you see it, get professional guidance.
I had a situation one time where a person showed up in my office with a trust document, where it was signed literally on someone's death bed and the signature looked like a chicken scratch. It was a relative trying to get the estate plan changed and all the assets from a trust signed over to her. It was so blatantly obvious that there was something awry that I recommended the situation be referred to an attorney. These things do happen and when you see it, consider contacting someone like Linda at Tabory Law who might be able to resolve the situation.
5. Dealing with elder-care issues can be very delicate so make sure you keep the lines of communication wide open.
The more all of the different parties can talk, the more likely it is that these issues are going to be addressed and problems are going to be avoided. If you see problems start to arise, don't ignore them. Waiting and hoping the situation will resolve itself usually doesn't work. I'm speaking from experience here. My stepfather passed away a few years ago and it took me some time before I realized that my mom was dealing with some pretty severe depression over the loss of her husband. Fortunately, with the help of my sisters, we were able to step in and help her. Today, she's thriving.
Bill Keen on aging...
Be on guard and sensitive to the warning signs of aging. Take action early.
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Bill Keen is a CHARTERED RETIREMENT PLANNING COUNSELOR℠ and independent financial advisor with more than 25 years of industry experience. As the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm, he specializes in providing personalized retirement planning designed to help people thrive before and during their retirement years. With a passion for educating others, Bill regularly blogs about retirement planning, hosts the podcast Keen on Retirement, and has contributed to U.S. News and World Report, Reuters, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, Yahoo Finance, and other publications. Based in Overland Park, Kansas, Bill and his team work with clients throughout the greater Kansas City area and across the nation. To learn more, connect with him on LinkedIn or visit www.keenwealthadvisors.com.
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