It can be difficult caring for elderly parents, especially if your parents are suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Caring for elderly parents is a situation that more and more children are facing as the average age of senior Americans continues to increase due to the availability of better healthcare and improvements in lifestyle choices. Americans are living longer than ever before; therefore, it is important to discuss issues related to caring for elderly parents in addition to making end-of-life decisions.
While some senior citizens may have completed the estate planning process, your elderly parents may or may not have taken those steps. Furthermore, many senior citizens have a will or other estate planning documents that relate to probating their estate but they have failed to plan for incapacity prior to their death.
Matters You Need to Discuss in Anticipation for Caring for Elderly Parents
The following topics are not easy to discuss with your parents; however, when caring for elderly parents, it is better to understand your parent’s wishes now while they are able to discuss these matters. After your parents are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, it may be too late to obtain the legal documents you need when caring for elderly parents. Therefore, having these tough discussions now is vital for caring for elderly parents in a way that honors their wishes and helps you provide a high level of care you desire for your parents.
Medical Preferences and Desires
As long as your parents are able to speak for themselves, they can and should make decisions regarding their healthcare; however, this may not always be the case, especially with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Discuss questions related to whom your parents want to make medical decisions for them, do they desire life-sustaining medical intervention, and the types of end-of-life treatments do they want or do not want to be performed. These questions may be extremely difficult for you to consider when caring for elderly parents; however, knowing their wishes will be honored with regard to medical care will make your parents feel more secure.
- Preferences for Long-term Care
When caring for elderly parents, most children want to care for their parents at home as long as possible. Unfortunately, this may not be practical or even possible depending on your situation and your parents’ health. Discuss with your parents the type of long-term care facility they prefer should this become necessary. What type of activities and amenities is important to them? What type of living arrangements (i.e. private vs. semi-private rooms) do they prefer? Moving to a healthcare or long-term care facility will be easier if the facility meets your parents’ expectations.
- Financial Affairs
This is another difficult topic that many parents have difficulty discussing with their children. Your parents may be very proud and the thought of not being able to manage their own finances is frightening, frustrating, and embarrassing for them. When caring for elderly parents, it is important to understand their financial situation, including knowing their monthly income, knowing their monthly expenses and bills, and knowing how their money is invested.
You need a complete list of all financial accounts including bank accounts, investment accounts, brokerage accounts, and retirement accounts. If your parents have a safe deposit box, your name should be listed as an authorized person to access the contents of the safe deposit box. It is essential you have access to your parent's financial affairs should they become incapacitated. It is also important to understand your parents’ financial situation when making plans for long-term care.
- Important Legal Documents for Caring for Elderly Parents
Having the proper estate planning documents in place before your parents become incapacitated is vital in caring for elderly parents. Once your parents are diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, it is often too late to have your parents sign estate planning documents. Therefore, the time for estate planning is now if your parents have not executed a will, power of attorney, HIPPA forms, health care power of attorney, and other documents that make it possible for you to provide for your parents’ care during their lifetime and settle their financial affairs after they pass.
Without the proper estate planning documents, you are forced to apply to the probate court to be appointed as guardian and conservator for your parent. This makes caring for elderly parents much more difficult because you are required to adhere to court rules and laws as a guardian and conservator.
Compassionate and Knowledgeable Estate Planning Attorneys
Krause Donovan Estate Law Partners, LLC is a Madison, Wisconsin law firm focusing on the area of estate planning, wills, probate, and trusts. Our attorneys offer personalized services to each of our clients and they can meet with clients in their own home if they are unable to come into our office for a consultation. Contact our office by calling (608) 344-5491 to schedule a consultation or use our online contact form.