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Care Of Parents

If the time comes when an elderly parent needs care, will you be ready to shoulder the responsibility? Americans are living longer, but that doesn’t mean they’re in rosy health, and the frailties that come with age often happen gradually, and they can become debilitating.

There are some steps you can take to prepare and relieve some of the stress on yourself and your parents. You’ll need to talk with your parents, even if it’s difficult. Start the conversation slowly, and lead into it over a period of time. Sometimes parents drop comments about what will happen as they age; that’s your cue to ask some questions. Encourage them to share their plans. Ask what they have in place. Ask what they want you to do to help. You may not get all the answers you need at first, so allow time for them to be comfortable with the idea of giving some control over to you if that becomes necessary.

From a financial perspective, these are some things you, as caretaker, may need to know:

  • Where are the pertinent financial papers? Ideally, they’re in a central place so they can be located when needed. If there’s a safe deposit box, it may be a good idea to have your signature added so you can have access if necessary.
  • Is there a will? Is it up to date? Where is the original? Who is the attorney? Who is the executor? Is there a durable power of attorney?
  • Is there an estate plan?
  • Did your parent put property into a trust?
  • Does your parent receive Medicare or Medicaid benefits? How much are the insurance copays for service and prescriptions?
  • What Social Security benefits or pension payments is your parent entitled to? How are the payments received – by mail or direct deposit to a bank account? Will pension benefits extend to a surviving spouse?
  • Is there life insurance? What’s the cash value of the policy?
  • Is there long-term care insurance or critical illness coverage? Where are the policies? Who is the agent?
  • If there are annuities, what are the payout schedules? What company issued the annuities?
  • Are there bank accounts, and how much money is on deposit? If you are going to pay bills for your parent, ask to add your name as a signatory to a checking account. That way, you can write checks on that account if the need arises. The bank will help you set this up.
  • How do your parents receive and pay bills? For example, if Mom is Internet-savvy, she may have set up some accounts to deliver invoices by e-mail, and that could leave you looking in the mailbox for a utility bill that never comes. You’ll need to find out what is paid by check, electronic transfer, credit card, or cash.
  • If your parent does have accounts set up via the Internet, ask her or him to write down login IDs and passwords for those accounts and keep them in a safe place.
  • Are there retirement savings accounts, and how much money is there? Where are the accounts? Who is the financial advisor for these accounts? Have automatic withdrawals been set up, and where are the payments sent?
  • Do your parents own their home? How much is owed? Who holds the mortgage? Where is the deed? What is the value of the home?
  • Did your parents set up a reverse mortgage to get extra retirement income? Where is the contract, and what company holds that contract?
  • Are there other investments or real estate holdings? What is the value? Who handles these investments?
  • If your parents have sizable assets, is there a living trust?
  • Is there a living will that spells out your parent’s wishes in the event of serious illness? Is there a healthcare Power of Attorney?

Many Web sites offer information about eldercare, including the National Council on Aging and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Administration on Aging.

Inspiration for Those Caring for Aging Parents:

Perform an inventory.

A detailed understanding of assets and life choices is a key to helping parents who require special care. If you’re not sure what questions to ask, a representative may be able to help.

Explore accelerated benefits.

An Accelerated Death Benefit can help pay for accommodations in terminal illness situations. Learn more about this early policy pay-out option.

Make sure you’re ready, too.

The Family Legacy section of includes many ideas for easing the burden on your kids.

Western & Southern Life does not provide tax or legal advice. Please contact your tax or legal advisor regarding your situation.


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Last Updated: 12/14/2017