As our parent age and health changes, or sadly death occurs, it’s stressful enough dealing with everything at hand let alone tending to their affairs. The following are a few steps I took over the course of time, and so glad I did as when the time came regarding a health incident, I was prepared.
Suggestion #1 – Plan and get prepared, NOW!
Don’t wait. Start now. Once a parent turns 65, and for sure by the time they are 80. There is so much to do that the sooner you start getting things organized, the better.
Are you an only child? If so, it will be a easier (but more time consuming) as you won’t have other siblings to contend with. And often when there are siblings, the taking on of one’s parents falls in the lap of one. In a perfect world, all the siblings would get together, discuss, plan and implement without incident.
However, that rarely happens. It’s suggested to find out now, whose on board and who is not, so you know where you stand.
Suggestion #2 – What medications are they taking? Who are their doctors?
Get with your parents regarding all the medications they take, including dosages, and how many times a day they take them.
Also, list any allergies if applicable. List them on a form of some sort that can easily be saved and updated as needed.
Additionally, add to this list ALL their doctors,phone numbers and addresses, and their Medicare ID# if applicable, and store on your computer or phone for quick and easily access. If they are not on Medicare yet be sure you have a copy of their health insurance card in your wallet.
Every six months email or snail mail the list to your parent(s) or if you live near by, update the list in person. Should an emergency arise, you will then have immediate access to provide that vital information to the EMS and Emergency Room personnel as well their Medicare ID#.
Suggestion #3 – Do you know any of their neighbors?
If possible, meet one or two of your parents neighbors and see if they would agree to be your ‘eyes and ears’ especially if you live out of town. Make sure they have all your contact numbers and you have theirs.
In the event you can’t get a hold of your parents, you could hopefully call them to check on them. If there is not a neighbor you can count on, you can always call your local police and ask them to do a wellness check if you are unable to reach them over a extended period of time, especially if they have a medical condition.
Suggestion #4 – What about their household accounts?
Have a list of their bills such as credit cards, utilities, mortgage payment or rental, etc. with all the account numbers, and how the name reads on everything. Should they be hospitalized, or sadly pass away, contacting these companies to make whatever arrangements needed to be made, so much easier.
Suggestion #5 – Banking & Finances
Talk to your parents about their finances, what banks do they bank at, would they feel comfortable putting you on their account so you can manage affairs if the need arises.
Suggestion #6 – Stay in Touch
Skyping is an excellent way to see they look as well as giving everyone an opportunity to visit with one another.
Calling is always nice but you can’t see how they physically look. How many times when we call and ask “so how are you doing” we hear “oh, I’m fine”. But are they? It doesn’t take anytime at all to set up their computer up Skype and best part, it’s FREE.
Suggestion #7 – Legal Documents
There are 5 legal documents you should have in place. These documents will ensure that you can assist your parents in a medical or financial emergency and, at their deaths, ease the distribution of their estate:
Medical directive, also known as living will, personal directive, advance directive, medical directive or advance decision, is a legal document in which a person specifies what actions should be taken for their health if they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves because of illness or incapacity. In the U.S. it has a legal status in itself, whereas in some countries it is legally persuasive without being a legal document.
Health care power of attorney is a document in which you designate someone to be your representative, or agent, in the event you are unable to make or communicate decisions about all aspects of your health care. In the most basic form, a health care power of attorney merely says, “I want this person to make decisions about my health care if I am unable to do so.”
Durable financial power of attorney is simply a way to allow someone else to manage your finances in the event that you become incapacitated and are unable to make those decisions yourself. More precisely, it grants someone legal authority to act on your behalf for financial issues.
A revocable trust is a trust whereby provisions can be altered or canceled dependent on the grantor. During the life of the trust, income earned is distributed to the grantor, and only after death does property transfer to the beneficiaries.
A will is a legal document that sets forth your wishes regarding the distribution of your property and the care of any minor children. If you die without a will, those wishes may not be followed. Wills vary in their effectiveness, and none is likely to resolve every issue that arises from your death.
In closing, I hope you find these suggestions helpful. If you have any that have worked for you and your family I’d love to hear from you.
Owner/Founder – Elder Options of Texas