Caring for your aging parents

As you get older, your parents are aging too (if you’re lucky enough to still have them!) For most of us, this means that we need to provide more and more care to help look after them. Whether they’re still living independently, or they’ve moved to a retirement or nursing home, there are a lot of areas where they might need your help. Financial, medical, legal, social – there are a lot of things to consider.

In an article posted on MarketWatch, writer Joe Hearn shares a very comprehensive checklist to make sure you cover off all aspects of your parents’ lives that they might need help with.

(from “A simple but thorough checklist to help aging parents,” by Joe Hearn, Oct. 13/14, retrieved from: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/a-simple-but-thorough-checklist-to-help-aging-parents-2014-10-30)

This is Hearn’s checklist, which you can use as a helpful guide to make sure you have everything covered:

Finances

  • Make a list of all accounts and where they are held
  • Get contact information for their advisers
  • Consolidate and simplify accounts where possible
  • Make sure the accounts are titled correctly
  • Offer to sit in on a meeting with their financial adviser to review investments, make sure the asset allocation is appropriate and make sure there are adequate resources to support your parents’ lifestyle
  • Review Social Security benefits
  • Make sure all beneficiary designations are up-to-date
  • Streamline bill paying

Insurance

  • Make a list of all insurance policies (life, health, long-term care, etc.) and where they are located
  • Get contact information for their insurance advisers
  • Offer to sit in on a meeting with their insurance adviser to see if a long-term care insurance policy would be appropriate
  • Review homeowners, auto and umbrella liability insurance to make sure they are adequate, appropriate and up-to-date.
  • Review health insurance coverage and consider whether it would be appropriate to add a Medigap policy to pay for costs not covered by Medicare

Legal documents

  • Do they have a will or estate plan?
  • If so, does it reflect their current wishes (i.e. does it pass property to the correct people and have the correct people taking charge)?
  • Do they have an up-to-date durable power of attorney for finance?
  • Do they have an up-to-date durable power of attorney for health care?
  • Does their health care power of attorney contain a health-care directive that spells out their wishes for life-prolonging care?

Living arrangements

  • Is the current housing situation suitable?
  • Do any changes, updates or modifications need to be made to the house?
  • Have they made contingency plans for illness, disability or death of a spouse?
  • Is there money available to pay for those contingencies (e.g. savings or long-term care insurance)?

Health

  • Make a list of their doctors as well as any medications they are taking
  • Help coordinate benefits between care providers and insurance companies

This looks like a lot – and it is. If you can, try to break down into manageable chunks, i.e. tackle it section by section, starting with your most urgent priorities. And if you need to, and you can afford it, bring in specialists to support you. Seniors’ consultants, such as ElderCare Canada, can help you figure out what steps to take, and when. They can advise on when it’s necessary for a senior to move into assisted living, for example, or can help you find local support people who can visit your parent at home.

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