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Elderly Relatives

LOOKING AFTER your parents or other elderly family members? In all likelihood, it’s a team effort, with perhaps your siblings involved and others whom you have hired. To help matters run more smoothly, consider these steps:

Create a list of experts. Pull together the names and contact information for doctors, dentists, lawyers, tax preparers, financial advisors and anybody else who assists your parents. Make sure your siblings and other caregivers have the list.

Find a backup. If you and your siblings don’t live near your parents, find somebody local who can check on your parents if you become concerned. Make sure that person has a set of keys to your parents’ home.

Agree on how to share costs. If your parents don’t have enough money for their own care, you and your siblings may have to pick up part of the cost. Early on, discuss how much you can afford to spend and create a system of monthly accounting, so nobody ends up shortchanged.

Watch for abuse. There might be physical or emotional intimidation or, alternatively, perhaps someone is stealing from your parents. If you think something is awry, be quick to alert others.

Have a contingency plan. What if things deteriorate with your parents—and it’s suddenly clear they can no longer live independently? Ideally, you should discuss this with your parents ahead of time. For instance, if the next step is an assisted living facility, it will be easier if you check out a few places ahead of time and get your parents’ opinion.

Throughout, keep the focus on what your parents want. Emphasize that you’re trying to help them maintain their independence. As we age, we have a sense that we’re losing control. If you start making decisions without consulting your parents or you push them too hard to make changes, they will likely feel as if they’re being forced to surrender yet more control—and the conversations could quickly turn contentious.

Want additional information? Check out the guides available from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Next: After a Death

Previous: Nearing Retirement

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