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Talking the Talk with Your Almost Elderly Parents

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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): Talking the Talk with Your Almost Elderly Parents

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Talking the Talk with Your Almost Elderly Parents

You are probably at the age, or soon to be, where your parents are getting up there in age. Hey, I feel like I am getting up there myself...especially noted when I get up in the morning and actually hear the creaking of my bones! As far as your parents, there is just no happy way to do this, but at some point, you are going to have to sit down with them and discuss the future, and to make sure they are prepared the best they can be. Do not wait until an emergency happens or you are forced to make last minute rash decisions....which are typically the wrong ones!

This is best done in person. It's more personable and friendly that way. I had to do it myself over the phone, and it worked out okay, so don't use "I haven't seen my parents in awhile, so I can't do it just yet" as an excuse! Starting the conversation in itself, is the hardest step! Get the dialogue going by talking about yourself and your husband. Talk about what your plans are as far as your will, plans for your children and the future. You can use this to lead into talking about their plans. The key is to be non-threatening, and you don't want to come across as being bullying or self-serving. This is supposed to be for your parents' benefit and well-being and not yours. Follow the steps below, and make sure you hit all the key points.

  • Make a list of important people in your parents' lives. Keep a list of their insurance agent, banker, attorney, stockbroker, financial advisor and anyone they do business with. Also include poor Aunt Gladys who would be devastated not to find out something happened to your parents and wasn't able to come because no one knew how to reach her.
  • Consider being on their checking account so you can write checks. Some parents may resist this, but you want to be able to pay their bills if something should happen to either of them. Most of the older generations consider finances to be taboo as discussion topics. Again, share about yourself to make it easier for them to open up and stress this is all for their benefit.
  • Each parent should have a durable power of attorney done. Have them list a responsible child (hopefully you) to have the authority to make financial decisions on their behalf. Your parents can revoke this power at any time. Make sure they do a durable POA and not a regular one. Only the durable POA remains in effect when a person becomes incapacitated. You and your husband should each have one too!
  • A health care power of attorney also needs to be done for each parent. This will allow a designated person to make medical decisions for them if they are unable to. Don't forget to show them yours.
  • Each parent needs a living will or medical directive specifying how much and what type of care he or she would like to receive should their condition become terminal, or they get into a coma. Use the sample here. When my mother became incapacitated, we knew exactly what her wishes were and didn't hesitate in dealing with the doctor's recommendations. My husband and I each have one for ourselves. Their is no guarantee that things won't be reversed, and it's our parents having to decide what our wishes are.
  • Have your parents make a list of their assets and income. They may not want to share this with you, so have them seal it in an envelope and either give it to you to put away or tell you where you they are keeping it. You need to be able to find this document should something happen. Have them note the location of their non-tangible assets too, such as stock and bond certificates, bank CDs, insurance policies and other financial documents.
  • Have your parents write up a "letter of instruction". I got around this touchy subject by doing one for myself first and reading it, then giving it to my parents. Talk about the sentimental stuff that means something to you around the house, where you want to be buried, the location of your important papers, even what music you'd like played at your funeral! This site should give you some ideas of things to include.
  • Make sure your parents have a will or living trust. Again, I gave them copies of our paperwork first. It is pretty expensive to see an attorney, and there are other options. If you are military, you can get a will done for free on post through the legal office. There are also kits available to do it yourself. We used "We the People", where setting up a living trust is fairly inexpensive at around $500. I liked that they were local and were familiar with my state's laws. They are located in every state, so check where your nearest one is located. The only catch is that you have to do the funding of your trust yourself (which took us about two months). Another option is Legal Zoom, an on-line legal document service. Read more about the differences, advantages and disadvantages of wills vs living trusts. The bottom line, is that you do need something.
  • Get familiar with Medicare and Medicaid. You need to find out what programs and services your parents are eligible for. Know what your parents' rights are. It can be daunting navigating these programs, so wouldn't it be nice if you, as their child, could help them in that task?
  • Have a long term care plan. I have a friend whose father died and then her mother became incapacitated shortly thereafter. My friend worked and could not care for her mother. She had to put her mom in a nursing home, where she quickly went through her life savings, had to sell the family home and then started in on her daughter's life savings. Long term care insurance is generally best for those who feel it's unlikely they will qualify for Medicaid but don't have enough assets to completely pay for nursing home care. As much as you love your parents, do not go into your retirement savings to pay for their nursing home stay. It is my understanding that once accepted into a nursing home, and if your parents were to run out of money, the nursing home is obligated to keep them, as long as it is a Medicaid certified nursing home.
  • Check your state or city for eldercare resources. For example, the Illinois Department of Aging has numerous FREE and extremely lowcost services from errand running services, cleaning services, medical alert devices ("help, I've fallen and I can't get up") and a variety of other programs and support for the elderly.
If you are looking for more resources to check out, follow the links below:

Senior Resource site

Aging with Dignity

National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys


Obviously, this is not a fun topic, but it is a necessary one. By following the steps above and getting smart on eldercare, you are buying peace of mind for you AND your parents. I can't tell you the YEARS I stressed over my aging grandparents in Germany. My mother had already passed away, so I knew, being the oldest child, I was the right choice to be the responsible one. I finally got off my butt, and did what I was obligated to do, and in a foreign country no less. When the time came, I was totally ready and knew exactly what to do. Everything was in place and already planned out, and it was just a matter of going through the motions, allowing me to totally focus on my grandparents and the grieving process.

What have you done to prepare yourself and your family?

Read this article and many more like it in this week's Carnival of Personal Finance at "The Dough Roller".



Blogger W. Wright said...

Great blog.

The funny thing about long term care insurance is that the price of a policy can vary a lot from one insurance company to the next. I learned that each long term care policy has a different way of charging premium based upon health history, marital status, choice of benefits, and even state of residence. It pays to shop.

Who should own long term care insurance is a good question. I think it makes more sense for a married couple to own a policy, rather than a single person. If a single person uses all of his/her savings/income to pay for care, that's not so bad. If, on the other hand, a spouse requires care and uses up a significant portion of the couple's savings and/or income, the healthy spouse would have quite a burden to bare: both emotionally and financially.

I found this website to be very helpful:


October 18, 2007 at 5:37 PM  
Blogger Dr. Mikol Davis said...

Please check out our web site it is filled with lots of helpful articles written by our professional staff

October 19, 2007 at 1:04 AM  
Blogger Dr. Mikol Davis said...

Your comments are very well done and I hope people listen. We are in the consulting business and from experience, we can tell you that most people do not plan ahead. They wait for a crisis to force this on them. No one can sign a power of attorney if they are out of it. If one has trouble approaching the subject, we have a brief podcast on how to go about it on our website. We hope your post and others will encourage everyone to get on with this necessary work of talking to aging parents. "Do it now, or regret it later" is true for this subject.

Carolyn L. Rosenblatt, R.N, Attorney,

October 19, 2007 at 1:09 AM  
Blogger ****Veteran Military Wife**** said...

All very good points. I just read this month's Money magazine yesterday. There is a very good article on long term care insurance. The article specifically addresses those points you mentioned. You really have to read carefully, what each policy's not a blanket coverage for everything. Also, the companies can raise your rates on a whim. Anyway, please do read the article, as it has quite a few stories to share of people who have "been there and done that".

October 19, 2007 at 2:38 PM  
Blogger MyATM said...

Great article.

February 8, 2011 at 11:41 AM  

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