How to Properly Care for an Elderly Parent


I recently experienced how frustrating the process of helping an aging parent through the bureaucratic nightmare of transitioning can be, after the loss of a spouse. About a year ago my father died. Calls were placed to various organizations to make proper notification. One of the calls went to the provider of Medicare Supplement Insurance. Almost a year later the premium for both of my parents continued to be deducted from my mother’s checking account.

I placed a call to the insurance company, or more specifically the sponsoring organization, to question why the premium was still being charged. After several transfers and redials I was able to obtain assistance to resolve all the months of overpayment, in the form of more paperwork to be completed, including the need to submit a death certificate, a copy of the Medicare card, a copy of Form DD 214 proving honorable discharge from military service, and proof that I can act on behalf of my parents.

The moral to the story is simple. Begin working to help aging parents or a loved one transition into the next phase of their lives well before the time comes that they need to make these changes.

It is not uncommon for changes to occur suddenly, with no apparent warning. Many things need to happen when it’s time to move a parent or loved one into an assisted living facility or nursing home. There are a number of tasks to be accomplished to make this next step in family living go as smoothly as possible. But are YOU really prepared for when that transition may happen? Have you had the conversation with your parents yet about WHY this will need to be done, and HOW it is going to be done? It’s critical that you discuss with them and are in agreement on these issues, especially before they begin experiencing any decline in mental function, or worse, before one or both become deceased. I fortunately had discussed these issues with both parents prior to my father’s death, and also completed the power of attorney form required to allow me to act on my parent’s behalf.

But what if you are finding yourself in this situation now, what do you need to do? The list of things that need to be done may be rather extensive and you probably feel overwhelmed. Near the top of the list of items to be done is making sure you have pulled together Medicare information, Medicare Supplement information, and if applicable, any Veterans’ Administration benefits information, as well as to notify these organizations when a parent has a change in health or is deceased. In addition, have you gathered all other pertinent information related to your parents finances, health and insurance? Do you have it stored in an easily accessible format? Do you have the phone number for the attorney? Primary care physician? Financial advisor? Insurance advisor? Involved family members?

Are all pertinent documents current and signed? Beneficiary Forms? Health Care Powers of Attorney? Financial Powers of Attorney? Physician’s directives? Wills? Trusts?

When and where will care be given? What time of care is to be provided? How will the costs of services be paid? Is there long-term care insurance? One can see why it is so important to have these conversations with your parents before they begin to experience a decline their health or mental function.

I have helped many of my clients and their parents through this process of preparing for the next stage of life, as well as helping sort out the details and next steps as changes occur. Many times just having a neutral third party to assist with discussing these sensitive issues ahead of time has helped children of older generations who are not used to sharing their financial situation with their children.

If you have any questions, need assistance with this process or would like help in finding an attorney who can prepare estate planning documents and help with elder care issues, feel free to give me a call.


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