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Caring About Our Parents
We receive many phone calls from family members concerned about the well-being of their elderly parents. . . .
Over the years, we receive many phone calls from concerned family members about the well-being of their aging parents. While some families have wonderful transparency, many have well built walls without windows.
The concerns might immitate those of a parent raising teenagers. Where are they? Are they safe? Is anyone taking advantage of them?
I found this wonderful article on CNN Money.com by Kate Ashford that summarizes some of the advice we have passed on to our clients. Unfortunately not all of the suggestions are readily received, such as registering and monitoring parents banking transactions online. Many seniors fear being damaged by on-line fraud and refuse allowing such access.
However, these are great suggestions that I feel should be passed on. Just try not to implement too much change too quickly. It will be received more readily if you phase in the changes over time.
Excerpts from the article:
Have The Talk It's a tough topic to broach, but don't wait for a crisis. If you ask any attorney or C.P.A. for the saddest cases, they'll talk about the clients who run into their office when there's an emergency. Assuming some of the responsibility for an aging parent is a process, not an event.
Take advantage of a comment or complaint. Are they starting to talk about the house being a burden? Ask if you can help them take care of some things. Once you've cleared that delicate hurdle, you can tackle trickier matters - such as their finances. Ask if they'd like some help paying their bills. Blame the hard-to-read fine print, blame their busy lives, but offer a hand.
Consider A CareManager If you think your parents might be resistant, shift the perspective. "You can say, 'Mom, I'm worried about you, and it would really help me if you'd consider having this person come over and check on you." This way the parent is doing something to help the child, rather than acquiescing to care they don't think they need.
Help Them Automate The more of your parents' finances you can put on autopilot, the better. Make sure their Social Security and pension checks are being deposited directly into their bank account. Have utility-bill balances billed to a credit card each month (if possible) to take advantage of the card's built-in consumer-protection features.
If your parents are comfortable with the idea, monitor their bank and credit-card accounts online (get their user names and passwords) so you know where their money is going. You'll be better equipped to spot trouble before it escalates.
Create A Safety Net Get to know the services available to your parents where they live. When you visit, introduce yourself to your folks' neighbors and friends so they know who you are. Get names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses so you'll know who to call if, say, you need someone to run over and check on Mom.
Also, come up with an emergency contact plan. Consider getting your parents a cell phone with large buttons they can see, like the Samsung Jitterbug Dial (it's easy to use, and even has a dial tone, so it acts like an old-fashioned landline phone), and program emergency numbers - including yours - into the speed-dial slots.
And since any telephone is both a lifeline and a source of scams, have your parents' phone number delisted from telemarketing directories by visiting donotcall.gov.
Put powers in place If you're going to help your parents with their financial affairs, you should, if possible, be empowered to act on their behalf. Talk to them about establishing a durable power of attorney. You want one that goes into effect the moment it's signed - as opposed to the "springing" type, which applies only after a doctor declares your parents incapacitated.
There's that gray area between health and incapacitation, where they just need a little bit of assistance. Durable power of attorney is the way to go.
There's also something called a medical power of attorney, which enables you to make decisions about your parents' health care. You'll be able to talk to doctors on their behalf and get medical information about them, something that can be extremely difficult under current patient-privacy laws. If you have siblings, consider splitting financial and medical powers of attorney between you, so no one bears the whole burden.
You can read the entire article at: http://money.cnn.com/2007/05/17/magazines/moneymag/long_distance_care.moneymag/index.htm?section=money_latest
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