Are You Your Parents’ Long-Term Care Plan?

Why it’s never too early to talk about money.

If you haven’t talked to your aging parents about their finances, brace for impact. You may be setting yourself up for a financial punch to the gut.

That’s what it’s like to find out you have to help bridge the gap between what your parents actually have and what they need.

You thought everything was handled because your parents never said anything. And you never thought — or wanted — to ask.

It’s not just you. According to a recent Wells Fargo survey:

More than a third of Americans with aging parents haven’t talked about their parents’ current or future finances, and almost half of Americans would rather discuss funeral plans than financial plans with their parents.

Maybe your parents have taken care of business. But until you know the facts, that assumption is magical thinking at best. At worst, it’s a real and significant threat to your own financial security. Especially if your parents require long-term, specialized care.

“A Conversation That Can’t Wait”

Is there a gap between your parents’ ecpectations and reality? If so, where is that money coming from?

If you’re like most of us, you won’t have a clue until a bad fall or diagnosis sends you scrambling for answers — and you discover how expensive and limited your options are.

“This is a conversation that can’t wait,” writes Cameron Huddleston, a financial journalist whose biggest money regret is not talking soon enough to her own mother about finances.

“The problem with waiting until a health crisis makes it necessary to talk to your parents is that it might be too late at that point for you to help. You might not have the legal right to access their accounts to ensure their bills get paid or to make health care decisions for them if they haven’t named you their financial or health care power of attorney.

“If you wait until your parents show signs that they need financial help, you might not have taken steps to get your own finances in order to provide that help. And if you wait until your parents actually need long-term care before you start talking about it, you might find out that you’re their long-term care plan.”

“It’s Never Too Early to Talk”

Talking about money with your folks is one of those awkward conversations that always feels a lot easier to not have. Do it anyway. “It’s never too early to talk,” says Huddleston, and the sooner the better.

“You and your parents will have more time to come up with a plan if it looks like they won’t have enough money to live comfortably in retirement. You and your parents will have more time to dicuss what sort of care they want if an illness or accident leaves them unable to care for themselves. And you and your parents will have more time to discuss what roles they want you to play as they age.

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Stay Aware

New Rules for Mailing Checks

Parents still sending checks in the mail? Recent news from the USPS may help you convince them to finally start paying bills online. And it’s not the latest price hike for first-class stamps.

It’s a massive increase in mail theft and “check washing” — when criminals use chemicals to erase the $25 check your mom sent your kid and write themselves a $2,500 payday.

Don’t let your folks turn their mailbox into an ATM. Here are some tips to help: 6 Ways to Thwart Check Washing. (AARP)

Prepare

Step Up (an Down) for Safety

What about the stairs? If you parents plan to grow old at home, that’s a question to start asking now. Age-related changes make stairs more challenging over time. And for older adults, a misstep can be catastrophic.

Here are some steps (sorry, could not resist) to reduce risk well before your folks need to consider a stair lift: 8 Ways to Make the Stairs Safer at Home. (AARP)

Take Care

Have Mercy on Me

You snapped at your mother. You fell asleep on your spouse halfway through “date” night. You inhaled that quart of coffee toffee crunch so fast your dog hid under the bed.

How do you plead? “Guilty, yout Honor. On all counts.”

When you’re helping your parents, caring for your family, and yourself, there are always gaps between what is and what will never be. Feeling guilty about what you did or didn’t do, or what you should’ve, could’ve, would’ve done is inevitable.

And you can learn to manage it. Start here: The Dos and Don’ts of Managing Caregiver Guilt (Working Daughter)

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