For some seniors, managing finances is never really an issue. My father was handing his and mom’s up to the time he fell terminally ill, at 87. At Support For Home In-Home Care, likewise, we have quite a few elders who are still paying there own bills (including ours 🙂 )and managing finances, overall, with no issues at all.
For many seniors, however, a time does come when the task is too much. When that happens, it is often as traumatic as the other “big deal” in family discussions – driving.
Gail Buckner writes a column called “Your Money Matters,” which this week focuses on a topic she calls, “Taking Away Dad’s Checking Account“. As Ms. Buckner writes, “The discussion is often fraught with emotion: anger, embarrassment, sibling rivalry and fear, just to name a few.” She is so right. “Moreover,” she writes, ” it’s the kind of thing that tends to creeps up on you. Until the day it smacks you in the face. You drop by mom’s place and notice mail carelessly piled on the table; much of it appears to be bills. On the kitchen counter you find a bag stuffed with receipts and there’s cash scattered around.”
To our way of thinking, if this situation sneaks up on a family, shame on them. I know that sounds harsh, but there is really no excuse for families – led by the parents – not to start planning for the aging process way before there is any need to take action.
That is why we developed the Advance Living Directive tool, that I have written about before in this blog and in my books on the aging process. The tool itself is free. Families need some help to guide the discussion and benchmark need at various points in the aging process of their loved ones. There is no excuse for this issue being a surprise. It is too important – and potentially too emotional – to allow that to happen.
Planning for the aging process includes setting up trusts – and trustees – to handle finances if we become unable to manage. This must be done before the need occurs. As Ms. Buckner points out, correctly, if I wait until my cognitive level has declined, due to dementia or a stroke, for example, I no longer have the legal power to assign a trustee or a fiduciary – and I may not realize I need one.
So, talk, as a family, about Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and Instrumental ADLs and at what stage some help is going to be needed. Get a durable power of attorney set up before it is needed. Operate as a family, for the good of all the members of that family.
Best wishes. Bert