Caring for an Aging Parent
Treasure the time you spend with your aging parents. It is so precious, and they can still teach you a lot. Also, be conscious of how you can help them through the many changes they will experience. Physical changes in hearing and eyesight can make tasks more challenging. Chronic conditions or falls could cause a hospital stay. Mentally, a parent may take a bit longer to process information or perhaps find themselves in the beginning stages of dementia. It can be emotionally taxing to see the negative effects of aging on someone you love. Know that your parents appreciate your compassion and patience, often more than they can express. Many times an adult child can be a strong resource to assist with budgeting future living and medical needs of a parent or parents. Taking on the responsibility of a counselor may seem overwhelming, especially in addition to your current family needs and activities. It can be hard to know where and when to start.
Start today. Start conversations with your parents early. Early planning can often increase their future options. Knowledge gained from financial classes, seminars, workshops, and financial advisors can help you equip your parents for their future. So keep the dialogue going with your parents, and keep educating yourself. Here are some important topics to consider.
1. INSURANCE, Public and Private Programs
Know what your parent’s insurance plans will (and won’t) do for them. Gather information so you know the current benefits, and what other options exist. You know best how to protect your parents. Do they have long-term care insurance? If so, meet with their agent and see what triggers the benefits to be paid.
Find out if they have prepaid their funeral expenses. Find out about their life insurance. Work through these questions- Is the beneficiary arrangement correct on the life insurance? Should they have life insurance? (Is their policy exempt from Medicaid? Maybe, there is no need for life insurance.)
Know how your parent’s health insurance plans work. Do they have a PPO? Talk with a qualified insurance professional about their coverage. Ask questions about nursing home and home health care coverage. Other questions include: Can my parent go to Mayo Clinic or Iowa City if they wish? How much can I expect to pay out of pocket per year? Is it time to plan for Medicaid for mother or father? If they are 65 plus the answer could likely be: YES.
2. LEGAL ISSUES
Discuss estate planning and how your parent’s assets may pass after their death. These areas blend into the legal issues which also should be addressed with an attorney specializing in Elder Law.
3. MILITARY BENEFITS
If one of your parents is a Veteran and served during wartime, they may qualify for a little-known pension named the “Aid & Attendance Pension”. This pension pays up to $2,085 for a qualified Veteran and spouse for un-reimbursed, ongoing medical expenses such as assisted living. Also, know; a number of diseases are now being contributed to Agent Orange use in Vietnam. If your loved one was exposed to Agent Orange they should see the VA for a registry exam to determine if they may qualify for assistance.
4. MORTGAGE ISSUES
A reverse mortgage can also be used to help with expenses. Basically, a monthly income is paid based on your parent’s equity in their home and the equity in the home is lowered with each payment. Use this option with caution.
5. FINANCE AND INVESTMENTS
If a person is dependent upon investment income, those investments should be in a conservative vehicle. When is the last time they confirmed their investments are properly allocated? Are they vulnerable to losses? Do your parents and/or you need help managing their finances, even paying their bills? Trust departments can provide a service with security in this area. Also available are companies that assist with bill paying.