If your parents are fine in a physical, psychological and emotional way, then you are very fortunate. Unfortunately, not all aging people are.
The issues may first manifest themselves as decreased alertness, memory loss, decreased concentration or attention span and reduced decision-making ability. These may be manifested in the financial realm as difficulty with balancing a checkbook (or failing to do so), a pile of collection letters, bills paid multiple times, utility cutoff notices, lapsed insurance policies due to non-payment, and unusual checks that were written.
Discussing these kinds of issues with elders is difficult because of mutual discomfort in discussing them. Parents may think it is not their children’s business. The elders have been independent for a long time. However, their longevity may reach into the 80s, 90s, and even 100s.
The first step is to verify that the following documents exist and are in order:
2. Durable Power of Attorney
3. Medical Power of Attorney
4. Advance Directive (also known as a Living Will)
The Will sets forth how to distribute the assets of the elder at their end of life. The Durable Power of Attorney enables a designated individual to take care of business needs such as paying bills and giving gifts. The Medical Power of Attorney enables a designated individual to make decisions concerning medical treatment if you are unable to make such decisions. The Advance Directive enables someone to direct to what extent, if any, “heroic measures” should be taken to resuscitate them.
Most attorneys will provide all of these documents and make sure that each is executed properly. You should discuss the costs for these with your attorney. However, be assured that the absence of these, when they are needed, will cost far more, both in terms of dollars and emotional upheaval.
Greater detail on this subject can be found in “The Family Guide to Aging Parents” by Carolyn Rosenblatt, RN, Elder Law Attorney.