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Your Parents, Their Money

By Joy Loverde

We've all been raised to be polite, and never discuss the subject of money with our parents. Instead, we wonder, worry and wait. Do Mom and Dad have a will? How will they pay for healthcare? How much of my own money am I expected to spend if they need help?

Sticker Shock

While parent-care expenses vary significantly by region, few people are prepared to pay the steep prices associated with living a long life:

  • In-home care averages $100 a day.
  • Assisted-living can run $4,000 a month.
  • Home remodeling can run thousands of dollars for outdoor ramps and adjusting counter heights and door widths.
  • Transportation vans can run up a hefty tab.
  • And what about special diets, hearing aids, and dental care?

Importantly, Medicare, the federal health insurance plan for people over 65 years of age does not cover the care and assistance many people require as they age. The possibility of shelling out thousands of dollars to cover parents' expenses may be closer to reality than we'd like to admit.

Broach the "Big Talk"

Talking to parents about remaining fiscally fit starts now - before a financial crisis comes raining down on everybody. Ask leading questions to alert you of potential problems:

  • Do you have a plan in place to pay for long-term care?
  • Have you given any thought to seeking professional financial advice?
  • I found a helpful article on paying for long-term care. Can I send you a copy?

Seize the moment. Any conversation they initiate regarding money is an opportunity to ask more questions. For example, you might say, "Yes, the cost of groceries sure has me on a pretty tight budget. How about you?" Or, "How can anyone afford a new roof these days?" Speaking in terms of questions, rather than statements creates a non-threatening communication environment.

Resist the temptation to "take over." If Mom and Dad refuse to engage in a conversation with you about finances, change the subject and bring it up again in a week or two. Keep in mind they have probably given this subject more thought than you realize.

Tame the Task of Gathering Information

Quick! What's Dad's Social Security number? Where's the deed to the house? Is power of attorney in place? What's Mom's computer password? Discovering what documents already exist, knowing where parents keep important information; then producing documents on demand is an inevitable responsibility in the parent-care process.

One easy way to get started is to photocopy the contents of your parents' wallets. In a matter of minutes you'll have copies of Mom and Dad's driver"s license, proof of health insurance, social security number, and credit cards.

Making the effort to review The Documents Locator ª section of The Complete Eldercare Planner (Revised and Updated, Random House, 2009) will help avert the trauma and expense of scrambling for important papers under emergency conditions.

The Documents Locator is available online at www.elderindustry.com. If you are the gatekeeper of your parents' important documents, be sure to store originals in a safe, 24/7 accessible location.

As you can see there is much to consider, and the sooner you bring up the topic of financing a longer life with your parents, the better off the entire family will be.

Joy Loverde Joy Loverde is the author of the best seller, The Complete Eldercare Planner: Where to Start, Questions to Ask, How to Find Help (Revised and Updated, Random House, 2009). During her career, she has been quoted in Wall Street Journal, Family Circle, Washington Post, and Working Woman. Joy is a regular on television and radio and has appeared on the Today Show and CBS Early Show. The Complete Eldercare Planner includes The Documents Locator, communication tips, action plans, checklists, worksheets, and is available wherever books are sold. Visit Joy’s website at www.elderindustry.com .

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