At some point in our lives, the role of caregiver reverses with our parents. Sometimes it comes on gradually. Other times it occurs like a high speed accident, sudden and without warning.
The caregiving I’m talking about can range from just checking in more frequently with Mom and Dad, helping to pay bills, keeping their home straight, medication reminders, all the way up to physical caregiving assistance.
So, before you are thrust into this role, here is a flight checklist you can use to help make sure you and your parents can successfully navigate the caregiving journey:
- Create an updated list of all their assets. Maintain and update this “Master List.”
- For assets that have beneficiary designations, make sure that a Primary and Successor beneficiary or beneficiaries are named.
- Know which bank account is used as the operating account for bills and expenses.
- Know what “pension like” income your parents have. Pension like means that come hell or high-water, that check is coming every month. This is the money you can count on to pay essential expenses.
- Know where the reserve cash is located. So, when the next market downturn occurs, you have time to think and breathe. Unless you have a relief valve, you may feel squeezed when their monthly living expenses have doubled and the investment portfolio is down 30% or more.
- If there are online accounts, know where the usernames and passwords are kept safe.
- Do not let the “cost” of assisted living, nursing home, or home caregiving surprise you or your parents. It’s not cheap. If your parents do not have sufficient long-term care insurance, are there resources available to pay $75,000 or more per year? For how long?
- If you or your parents do not like the realistic answer to #7 above, don’t stick your head in the sand and hope it never happens. “And” what are you going to do to improve things?
- Incapacity Legal Documents are updated and in place: Durable Power of Attorney, Advance Medical Directive, and maybe a Revocable Living Trust.
- Death Transfer Legal Documents are updated and in place: Will and maybe a Revocable Living Trust.
- Whatever assets, savings, investments, insurance, retirement plans, personal property, real estate, etc. that your parents have, make sure they are integrated with their legal planning.
- Be proactive, persistent, and patient with your parents, so that any caregiving holes you find are fixed. Seek help as needed. You and your parents will not have all the answers.
The above list isn’t all encompassing and for each family, there will be unique needs and concerns to address. But it’s a framework to talk with your parents, about what most of us do not talk about:
- Parents are living longer
- As they age, more caregiving help is required (informally and formally)
- Preparing children for this phase of life
- Not running out of money