Helping parents make hard estate-planning decisions

Some senior citizens acknowledge the inevitable and plan accordingly for their golden years. They purchase long-term care plans and arrange to move into assisted living facilities of their own volition once their mental or physical health dictates it is prudent to do so.

But others may lack the foresight — and often the means — to make such pre-need estate-planning provisions. It's in these situations that the adult children of the aging parents often must step in and take action to protect them from themselves.

Know when to step in

It can be difficult to know when it is time to intercede on your elderly parents' behalf. That's particularly true when you live some distance away and only see them infrequently.

But even adult children who live near their parents may miss subtle signs of their mental or physical decline, especially when you see them only in their home setting where they are the most familiar. It's possible that a senior citizen who is still able to manage to care for themselves within the confines of home would be confused and vulnerable trying to drive to or arrange transport for a doctor's appointment or even the supermarket.

Seek others' opinions

Do you know your parent's neighbors or close friends? Ask them frankly if your mom or dad is struggling to maintain the household or keep up with personal care. It's also wise to alert your parent's doctor of any alarming changes.

HIPAA laws may bar the physician and their staff of sharing much meaningful information about your parent's medical history, but the doctor can still listen to your concerns and later address them with your parent.

Use crises to force change

It's said that an ill wind blows no good, and this applies when your elderly parent has a crisis of any type. As a concerned son or daughter, let them know that you love them and are worried about them. Tell them that you would like to help them retain their self-determination as long and as fully as possible, and that begins with making some basic estate-planning decisions.

Start with small things, like naming medical and legal powers of attorney. Ideally, this will be you or a sibling, but your parent may have other ideas. Listen closely to why they feel someone is a better choice.

If the crisis was serious and involved a security breach or major health issue, this might be a good time to mention the possibility of entering assisted living. If your parent has several options from which to choose, it could make the inevitable decision a bit more palatable.

A Battle Creek estate planning attorney might be a good neutral party to discuss your parent's options going forward.

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