After my 2014, I now know that if you have elderly parents, most likely they could really use your involvement in their financial, home and/or healthcare affairs. DO NOT WAIT FOR THEM TO ASK! Like many of you, I unearthed tons of problems and tried to right many wrongs and messes. At first, it seemed to be an overnight change from their incredible independence to needing help in every direction. However, the more I learned over the last 12 months the more I realized that many issues had been building over several years.
Most of the problems were not a result of my parents’ lack of planning. It is hard to anticipate what kind of illness will creep up on each of us and what kind of help each person or couple may need. Perhaps many of us are eternally optimistic or perhaps naive?
Avoid My Experiences And Ask Yourself These Questions:
Health…Is one’s parent’s health being overlooked because he/she is caring for the other? When my dad was in the hospital about two years ago, I noticed some strange comments and actions by my mom. When I asked my dad about these, he attributed them to her stress due to taking care of him. Be careful not to always make stress the culprit for memory-related issues, because if there are memory problems they will infiltrate every part of life.
& Healthcare…Do your parents have long-term healthcare insurance? Do you know what percentage of costs their policies cover? Are you sure about that? Even with first-rate coverage, the industry norm is hovering just below 50%! Are their healthcare benefits assigned so that the insurance company is paying providers directly? This will save you a ton of extra administration and trips to the bank since many elderly do not bank online.
House and Material Goods!…Is your parents’ home still safe and enjoyable for them? Anyone with mobility issues should reassess their living situation. This is not just a matter of assessing whether or not your parents can make it in and out of the house. Are you they using even 60 or 70 percent of their space? Do they have friends over anymore? Are they still gardening or using their outdoor space at all? When is the last time they opened up half of the closets? Are they inundated by the paperwork needed to maintain a home? Do they have valuable jewelry in their home and know where it is? Is it an ordeal to take garbage and recycling out to the street? Are they really reading even half of their papers and magazines that keep arriving?
Sociability…Sociability was a big one when I started really looking at my parents. With my dad on a walker and progressing into a wheelchair a year ago and my mom becoming uncomfortable driving at night, they were spending most of their time at home. This was in stark contrast to their life even one year prior. Now, when they had friends over for dinner, it was at 4 pm so that those friends could go home before dark. My very sociable parents were becoming isolated, as were many of their friends.
It Doesn’t Matter If It’s The Phone, TV or Utilities!…No one will look out for your parents like you will! Mine were still paying for dial-up internet service, something they had not used in a decade! When I took over for them, the more companies I contacted regarding their different accounts, the more I found either a lack of ethics or at least minimal desire among others to take even one extra step or ask one extra question that would have helped my parents. This is not to say people were overtly stealing from them but in many cases, when individuals could have saved my parents upset, strain, money and time, many companies and their people could not be bothered.
Have your parents noted a back-up contact on all of their different accounts, in case there are ever payment delays? Utility, telephone and most other organizations now allow for a second contact. This is important in case your parents are ever hospitalized or unable to pay for another reason.
Money!…How many bank and investment accounts do your parents have and need? Are your parents even aware of their balances? Are they keeping too much in non-interest bearing accounts? Have you checked in to see if their current financial consultants are intelligent, efficient and communicative? Have you spoken with their accountant and their attorney to see if everything is in order?
Institutions Never Seem to Have Your POA Documents!…One of my favorite observations was how many institutions NEVER seemed to have my Power of Attorney documents on file. Whether I sent them or our attorney did, they were continuously lost. Most places will not even give you a contact name to which you can send these papers! No one wants to take responsibility. So finally, we started delivering them COD so that we always have proof as well as a name to which we could refer.
Driving…This is a hot button for many elderly. Should your parents be driving? My dad could barely walk but he wanted to drive. He had to be convinced not to drive, however my mom decided on her own. If they stop driving, get rid of their cars, hand in their plates and get rid of the car insurance policies and payments too!
Decisions…While I am POA for my parents, I am always asking the pros for their opinions and this includes my sisters and my husband. There are so many decisions that it really can keep a family closer and alleviate one’s stress, if some steps are taken to build consensus.
These are just some of the issues I have encountered and while all is not perfect with my parents, at least they do not worry about any of this now. In addition, we probably saved them close to $10,000 over the past year. Maybe that will pay for healthcare overages for about one month…seriously.