FEDweek

Helping Manage a Parent’s Life

If you’re at the age where you have elderly parents, you may have opportunities to help them remain independent.

Helping your parents or other elderly relatives manage their money can be tricky because many older people don’t like the idea of giving up control of their money, even if they can’t handle their own affairs. Nevertheless, thorough planning needs to be done:

* Make a list of your parents’ sources of income and other assets that can be used to cover expenses. Get in touch with their accountant, broker, or other advisors.

* Set up a joint checking account for yourself and your parents. Request that copies of the statements be sent you. If necessary, obtain a power of attorney.

* Use a joint debit card, tied to that account, to pay for your parents’ groceries, medicine, clothes, etc.

* Verify credentials of anyone who assists your parents with their finances.

* Monitor account statements to guard against embezzlement.

You may not be able to keep your parents from going into a nursing home but these tactics will increase their chances of living independently:

* Put money aside. Seniors who can dress and bathe themselves may need to hire someone to help with cooking, using the telephone, paying bills, managing medications, etc. If saving is difficult, a reverse mortgage can provide the needed cash.

* Don’t rush into assisted living. Moving to an assisted living facility is usually a temporary tactic. The average length of stay is two years, after which residents often go into a nursing home.

* Be careful at home. An “elder-friendly” home (second railings on the stairs, grab bars by the tub, etc.) will enable seniors to stay there longer, rather than go into an institution.

* Designate an advocate. Frail elders need someone to provide support in dealing with home care workers, government agencies, etc. This should be a loved one who lives nearby.