Caring for aging parents takes careful preparation

Lee Baker calls it a “personal double-whammy.”

Twice he has seen his role change from son to caregiver of his parents. His mother, 95, lives in Jacksonville, Fla. She is living with Alzheimer’s, the same disease his father fought before he died. A certified financial planner in Stone Mountain, Baker has plenty of real-world experience to share with his clients as he advises them through similar travails.

According to the 2009 Caregiving in the United States report, the average age of today’s caregiver is 49 and the average age of today’s care recipient is 69. Distance between parents and their adult children, combined with economic forces, have combined to exacerbate what is often an extremely difficult situation.

“My experience has benefited some of my clients,” said Baker, of Apex Financial Services. “I use my experience to help put them in a better position.”

Baker also uses the Family Love Letter, a plan designed by Jeff Scroggin of Roswell to help families work together to ensure the wishes of aging parents and other care recipients are clearly identified with the help of financial and professional advisors.

The “letters” include wills, contact information for lawyers and accountants, insurance policies, funeral requests and other documents that often require sensitive conversations.

“It sort of helps you walk through it in a non-threatening way,” Baker said. “You’re saying, ‘Let’s address this sooner rather than later.’ I know Dad had an account here or there, but you can’t find. There’s no documentation that allow you to access it, and Dad can’t remember things anymore. Before it gets to that point, you should have these conversations.”

Here are just some of the issues to discuss:

Do you have power of attorney? In the event that the aging parent’s mental capacity is diminished, you’ll need to have the legal right to access important documents and accounts.

Where’s the documentation? To avoid having to dig through your parents belongings to find life insurance policies and other important documentation, sit down with your parents and have them tell you where things are.

Break up the conversation. It’s easier to talk about these issues in short conversations over time. If there are multiple children, they should have a series of conversations as well.

Is the will updated? If your parents did a well 40 years ago, they may very well want or need it to be revised. This is especially true if there has been a divorce or remarriage.

– Baker advises periodically reviewing your mother or father’s checking account as they get older. Make a regular habit of monitoring things to make sure no one is taking advantage of them in their as they age.

Question: Have you ever had to deal with caring for an aging parent? How did you manage? Are there things you wish you had known? Have you had important conversations with your aging parents?

Follow me on Twitter @atlbargains and on Facebook at AJC Atlanta Bargain Hunter

3 comments Add your comment

Brooks Kenny

September 29th, 2010
7:18 am

Thank you for shedding a light on the issues that come with caregiving, in particular for those practical considerations related to legal and medical documentation.

I wanted to make readers aware of a service called Lotsa Helping Hands. Family caregivers can get respite and relief from tapping into the many offers of help they receive from their circle of friends and family by creating a free, private web-based community at http://www.lotsahelpinghands.com. The free service includes an intuitive group calendar for scheduling meals, rides and other daily activities as well as community sections (well wishes, blogs, photos) that provide emotional support to the family. Family members can also safely store and retrieve vital medical, legal and health information for their loved one. We created Lotsa Helping Hands to answer the question “What Can I do to Help?” – more than 30,000 private communities of support have been created to help coordinate well meaning offers of help for family caregivers. I hope readers find it helpful in their caregiving journey.

[...] According to the 2009 Caregiving in the United States report, the average age of today’s caregiver is 49 and the average age of today’s care recipient is 69. Distance between parents and their adult children, combined with economic forces, have combined to exacerbate what is often an extremely difficult situation. continue reading>> [...]

Martha Graham

September 30th, 2010
4:33 pm

I just happened on this article and gave a big sigh of relief after reading it. Thanks so much for the information and the website listed in the comment section. It seems to be worse when you have other siblings who don’t agree with each other on what to do. These are exactly the same questions I have and the conversations I feel we need to be having. Unfortunately, my suggestions went over like a lead balloon. We are in our sixties and our parents are in their mid-eighties and still living at home. What an ordeal!!!!