One of the most difficult aspects of caring for an elderly parent (or helping an aging parent who lives far away) is keeping one step ahead when that parent begins to lose the ability to manage his or her own finances. Many seniors can be very resistant to discussing what they feel is an extremely private and sensitive topic. Furthermore, according to this article in AgingCare.com, “for many elders, being able to take care of their own finances is an important symbol of independence and self-worth,” and one that they are not likely to relinquish easily.
Unfortunately, an elderly parent’s ability to manage their own money may cease before he or she is willing to ask for help. In these cases, it may be up to you, the child or children, and loved ones to step in and help as best they can. What follows is a list of some non-invasive, non-offensive steps adult children and caregivers can take to help aging parents manage their finances.
- Ask for a list of important people and information you might need in case of emergency. This list would include contact information for an attorney, financial advisor, primary care physician, and insurance agent.
- Ask where your parent keeps important documents and how an executor or advisor could access those documents upon your parent’s death or incapacity.
- If your parent is willing, discuss his/her estate plan, including who he/she has chosen as his/her agent or executor, and what you can do if something happens.
- Ask your parent to make a list of monthly bills, expenses and account numbers. Although your parent may not want to hand over this information right away, the list should be stored with other important estate planning documents so that it can be accessed in case of emergency.
- As you keep track of your own financial deadlines (tax filing deadlines and the like) set up reminders for your parent as well.
- Ask that your parent list you as an “emergency contact” with their utility services. This way you will be informed if your parent’s service is in danger of being terminated.
- Finally, talk to your parent as often as you can. Keeping open lines of communication is the very best way to stay informed about the abilities and well-being of your aging parent.