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How to Discuss Estate Planning and Care Needs with Aging Parents

The absolute worst time to broach a conversation with an elderly parent about issues like powers of attorney, where he/she eventually might reside and medical costs is after an emergency

POSTED ON: March 28, 2012

The absolute worst time to broach a conversation with an elderly parent about issues like powers of attorney, where he/she eventually might reside and medical costs is after an emergency event has occurred. Nevertheless, many Massachusetts families do exactly that — wait until a crisis strikes before discussing with their parents, and planning ahead for, the realities of aging.

While discussing death and end-of-life issues may be uncomfortable, it is an important topic that needs to be addressed. A good rule of thumb is that adult children should start discussing certain senior topics with their parents if they are 40 and/or their Mom/Dad is 70. By starting early, families can get used to having these kinds of conversations. Planning should be done at a time when everyone is calm and there won’t be any distractions.

If there are no immediate concerns to address, asking about a parent’s will, including where it’s located, can be a straightforward topic to help get a larger conversation rolling. Critical topics for discussion should include money, home, property, care and legacy, as well as the “big picture” of how your parents see themselves living in old age. A realistic plan can then be established based on your parents’ input.

The fact is that when dealing with aging loved ones, you either make a plan for your family or you default to one, usually in dire circumstances and with fewer options available.

Questions to start the conversation

This list of questions can help give you a clearer picture of how your parents are faring and will help you assess their needs.

Their home

Is your home still appropriate for you now that you’re getting older?

Can you manage the stairs, or would you do better on one level?

Could simple modifications to your home make it more convenient?

Their activities

Do you need help with household chores, such as cleaning, fixing meals or taking care of the yard?

Does poor eyesight interfere with your daily activities?

Their health

What health problems do you have?

Are your prescriptions current?

What has your doctor told you about your health?

Can you pay for your medicines?

Their health care

What kind of health insurance do you have, and do you have Medicare, Medicaid or a Medigap supplement policy?

Do you have long-term care insurance or life insurance?

Have you been told that insurance won’t cover medical tests or procedures that your doctor has ordered?

Their finances

What are your current and likely future bills?

Can you pay for what you need?

Is all of your financial information in one place? Where?

Do you have an estate plan and a will, as well as a living will and health care proxy?

Once you identify your parent’s desires and needs you can start turning the conversation toward how to create a plan to achieve their goals. A consultation with an estate planning attorney can be a great way to start the process of getting things in order so that your parents, and the rest of your family, can be secure in their future.

Call the Heritage Law Center today to discuss how we can help get your family’s plan on track.