Dealing With Aging Parents: A 3-Step Plan

As we merge from the holiday season, no what holiday you celebrate, the one element we all have in common is family. And our families are aging. According to the Department of Health & Human Services Administration on Aging, by 2030 people over the age of 65 will represent 19% of the population.

The conversation about caring for aging parents, grandparents and loved ones usually starts at a holiday gathering. When else are families all going to be together to whisper concerns about how mom’s driving is worse than usual, how dad can’t remember to take his medications, and should grandma really live by herself.  The problem may be easy to identify, but addressing it is difficult and emotional.

Families are overwhelmed about where to start and often disagree about the best course to take. Here are 3 steps to get you started:

Problem #1: Access to your parents financial accounts.

Your loved ones will need to have estate planning documents to appoint financial and medical decision makers in case due to illness or some type of medical situation, they cannot handle their own affairs. The appropriate documents usually include at least a financial and medical power of attorney. The financial power of attorney your parents executed 20 years ago may not have all of the bells and whistles you need now, especially when the power of attorney was drafted in another state, and your parents may have been in a different estate tax situation. Your parents will also need to review the people named in the power of attorney to act on their financial and medical behalf to make sure those agents still are able to serve, and your parents want them to serve.

Step #1: Be sure you know where the estate planning documents are located, including the originals. Certain third parties, such as title companies may need to see the original. You will also want to have the documents reviewed by an elder law attorney in the state where your parents live. The National Academy of Elder Attorneys at NAELA.org has a national list of elder law attorneys. If your loved one no longer has the ability to execute documents, and does not have the right estate planning documents, you may have to pursue guardianship over your loved one.

Problem #2: Locating quality care providers and housing.

The decision to provide in home care or look for some type of alternate housing arrangement or assisted living is one of the most frequent areas of disagreements among adult children.  Unfortunately, Finances often dictate where and how much care your loved one receives.

Step #2: Finding good help and a safe, affordable place that meets your loved ones needs is best done with assistance from a professional known as a geriatric care manager (GCM). GCMs can help determine where the best place to receive care is, help make the transition, and can provide a neutral third party opinion on the situation. The National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers has a national list of GCMs at caregiver.org.

Problem #3Expensive living costs.

Paying for home care, assisted living costs, and nursing services can be very expensive. Parents may be on fixed incomes such as pension and Social Security, and have little cash resources.

Step #3: Many families are eligible for programs under the Veteran’s Administration and Medicaid, and are not aware of the benefits they could be entitled to receive. There are many myths and misconceptions about these programs, so finding a good advice is critical. Each state has different rules on Medicaid, but an elder law attorney is a great place to start researching what coverage your loved one could be eligible for. The Harris County Area Agency on Aging (https://www.houstontx.gov/health/Aging) can provide benefits counseling for Seniors.  Families can also contact the Houston and Southeast Texas Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association https://www.alz.org/texas) for information on local resources, programming, and caregiver support services.

Do you need any help planning for your aging parents’ future? Call the Law Offices of Christina Lesher at (713) 529-5900.