Family Finances — Caring for Elders

Caring for Elders

Taking care of an aging parent or relative can be a challenging task. The first step is to assess the situation and determine what kind of help is needed. You might consider meeting with an attorney and/or a financial advisor to help you develop a plan that can help you support your elderly parent or relative and help them manage their finances.

Gather important information

Get organized by pulling together a file of your elder’s important documents and key financial information. The following pieces of key information are a good place to begin:

  • Social Security number
  • Insurance information
        – A copy of insurance and/or Medicare cards
        – Long-term care policy
        – Life insurance documents
  • Names and contact information for lawyers and financial advisors
  • List of recurring financial obligations and costs—such as mortgage, rent, loan payments.
  • List of current accounts
        – Checking/savings accounts
        – Safe deposit box information
        – Brokerage/mutual fund account statements
        – Retirement account information
        – Beneficiary information for financial accounts such as IRAs or 401(k) accounts.

Prepare important legal documents

At some point, your elder may need help with paying bills, managing other financial obligations and making medical decisions. Consider checking with an attorney to help you and your elder prepare important legal documents that will allow you to act on your elder’s behalf, such as:

  • A durable power of attorney can enable you to make financial and legal decisions.
  • A medical power of attorney can allow you to medical decisions, including the right to consent to, or to refuse, medical care.

Other things to consider

  • Medicare—Review your elder’s Medicare choices. Some people stick with the plan they signed up for originally, just because it’s simpler than making a change. Check to see if a different plan would be cheaper and more appropriate. Seniors who have low incomes and few assets may qualify for Medicaid, a federal program administered by states, which pays for medical care. Eligibility requirements vary so check with your state’s Medicaid office.
  • Protecting elders against identity theft and fraud—You can also help protect your loved ones from scammers who prey on the elderly. The elderly are sometimes more susceptible to TV offers, telephone scams, con men and others. You can help by staying in touch, enlisting the help of a neighbor or other friend to visit daily, either in person or by phone. Be alert to new people in your elder’s life and keep an eye on the checking and savings accounts.

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