As today's senior population continues to age, it has become increasingly important for their adult children to step and make sure that they are prepared to take care of their aging parents. Whether parents suddenly pass, need to go to the hospital or must be moved to an assisted living facility, many times these big life changes come unexpectedly.
While these conversations can be uncomfortable for both seniors and their adult children, it is very important that all loved ones are prepared with some specific information on their senior loved one and their wishes. Having legal documents in order and knowing how to handle a senior's state of affairs can ensure that this individual has all of their wishes met, and it can make life much easier for the family of that senior should something happen.
Power of Attorney
If there is one conversation that all adult children need to have with their senior parent, it should be about a power of attorney. All seniors should have someone in mind to act as power of attorney so they have someone to take care of their affairs if they are unable to make decisions on their own. This can be a physical or mental incapacitation set on by an accident or even an illness such as Alzheimer's disease. This power of attorney can either handle all decisions, or they can have a health proxy and a financial proxy, meaning one person to handle health decisions and one to handle financial ones.
Wills and Living Trusts
All seniors need to have some type of will or living trust. These important legal documents detail what a person wants to happen to their money and possessions once they pass away. A living trust is slightly different than a will and it indicates who they want to be in charge of their assets in case they are incapacitated or pass away. Both of these documents are very important, knowing where they are can help all parties involved make decisions in the interest of the senior, should something happen to them.
This is perhaps one of the most uncomfortable conversations that adult children tend to have with their senior parents, but it is a very important one to have. Many seniors will have what is known as a living will which proclaims their choices about end-of-life care, such as a "do not resuscitate" statement or information on whether or not they would want to stay alive in a permanent coma. Living wills are the best way to make sure this information is clear, but children should at minimum know what their parent's wishes are, especially if they are the health care proxy.
Access to Documents
There are a number of legal documents, including their will and bank information that they may need at one point or another. If they are unable to located these documents themselves, it is important that their children know how to get their hands on this information. This may be a safety deposit box or a safe. In these situations, someone should have a key or combination that lets the individual into these secured areas.
General Health Information
It is always a good idea to check in with seniors about their general state of health, especially when the topic isn't brought up very often. Many adult children are surprised to find that they really do not know much about the parent's health condition, even if they feel very involved in their day-to-day life. Many senior adults are understandably private about their health information.
With this in mind, it is important for adult children to check in on their loved one's health, make sure that they are visiting the doctor regularly and to double check on all medication that their parent or loved one is taking. A great question to ask in order to get a feel for a senior's understanding of their medication is to ask them if they understand why they are taking all of the medications they have been prescribed, this can give any person a clear picture of whether or not they are able to manage their own medications and insight on that senior's overall health, should a medical emergency take place.
Many seniors have financial advisors that are managing their money and their assets, children or caregivers that may need to oversee this senior's estate in the future should have information on who that financial advisor is and how to get in contact with them.
Long-Term Care Coverage
There are many seniors who have some type of long-term care coverage such as long-term care insurance or even a special savings account meant for long-term care. Either way, their children and loved ones should know what finances are in place should that senior need to suddenly transition to assisted living. Some seniors have a plan, while others do not.
There are many seniors who have ideas or thoughts on where they would like to go if they can no longer care for themselves. Conversations about long-term care can be uncomfortable, but getting a senior parent involved in the discussion early on can help adult children and their loved ones plan for the future. Some seniors will be open to the idea of assisted living while others may prefer in-home care. While not every senior ultimately gets to be in the place they want, knowing what they would prefer can help families make more informed care decisions in the future.
No one ever wants something bad to happen to their loved one, but it is still important to have these conversations with aging seniors sooner rather than later. Sometime as seemingly minor as a slip and fall can put any senior in the hospital or in rehabilitation, and many families will have wished that they had this information handy. Family members should it slow and approach these topics in a calm manner and they can get the information that you need to keep their senior's best interest in mind and make sure their family is prepared for the unexpected should it ever arise.