Information about: Caregiving
When you care for an elderly parent you begin to think about your own relationship with your children.
I often hear phrases like, ‘I want my kids to remain independent and live their own lives.’ or ‘I don’t want them to be stuck taking care of me.’
THE FEAR OF BEING A BURDEN IS SIGNIFICANT. Underneath it all is a feeling of not wanting to impose on loved ones.
So what can you do to prevent yourself from being a burden?
What steps can you take now to get the care you may need without turning your children’s lives upside down?
How can you give them enough independence so they’ll be happy to see you? How can you make visits focused on love and grandchildren and not on caregiving or the latest news from the doctors?
As you know from caring for your loved one there is a time when outside care may be needed in the home. While it’s not always perfect, you’ve seen how massively helpful caregivers can be.
The step you can take now to prevent your kids from having to change their entire lives to care for you is to CONSIDER LONG-TERM CARE INSURANCE.
You have likely heard of it or your elderly parents may even have it themselves. However you may still have questions like when should you consider it, what is the cost / benefit, what kind of care you can get?
We’ll go through each of those in this post.
By the end of this post you’ll know EXACTLY how LONG-TERM CARE INSURANCE WORKS. You will feel INFORMED and EMPOWERED, knowing that there is something YOU CAN DO NOW TO PREVENT YOUR KIDS FROM SEEING YOU AS A BURDEN.
Decoding Long-Term Care Insurance
I often hear that people are familiar with long-term care insurance. They may have spoken about it with friends. Their loved one may have it. But they themselves haven’t bought it and are unfamiliar with how to evaluate if it’s a good idea.
I often hear:
‘What is it?’
‘How does it work?’
‘How can I trust an insurance company?’
The resources online often hard sell long-term care insurance. ‘You must get this insurance to protect yourself.’ They don’t even try to tell you what it is or what details are important.
The industry also makes you feel bad if you didn’t get it in advance for a loved one. You have a sick loved one and you’re suddenly in the position of needing to hire at home help to care for your Mom. The insurance industry’s response is often ‘You should have known to get long-term care insurance before this all happened’.
That is both 100% unhelpful and 100% rude.
So I want to review with you EXACTLY how long-term care insurance WORKS. I want to provide complete transparency into who should buy it and who shouldn’t. We’ll also go through the exact steps to research and buy long-term care insurance if you go down that path. Don’t worry, I’ll give you SIMPLE AND PRACTICAL STEPS TO SAVE YOU DOZENS OF HOURS OF TIME.
What Is Long-Term Care Insurance?
When you boil it all down long-term care insurance is SIMPLE. It is a guarantee that someone (the insurance company) will help you cover the costs of a private caregiver, nursing home or assisted living facility down the road.
Why is this important? Because as you know, this type of care is incredibly expensive. It can cost between $40,000 and $100,000 a YEAR depending upon where you live.
But we don’t need to get too far into the costs right now, I’ll go through that in detail later. The other reason is that YOUR KIDS WON’T NEED TO COORDINATE ALL OF YOUR CARE.
The insurance company will take care of all of this. They will set up the care, bring in evaluators for assessments, help you with transitions to different types of care and manage all the payment and benefits for caregivers.
This way your children can focus on SPENDING TIME WITH YOU. They won’t get burnt out from finding a last minute caregiver, interviewing people, having to take days off of work, shifting their schedule and going through the exhausting process of setting up care.
YOUR CHILDREN can PUT ALL OF THEIR ENERGY INTO CONNECTING WITH YOU and STILL HAVE A BALANCED AND INDEPENDENT LIFE.
What Exactly Does Long-Term Care Insurance Provide?
The long-term care insurance market evolved because care is so expensive and HEALTH INSURANCE and MEDICARE DO NOT COVER LONG-TERM CARE.
Let’s get into some specifics. So let’s say you sign up for long-term care insurance (don’t worry I’ll go through the concrete steps to that process later in the article). You pay the monthly installments. Years go by. You’re in your late 80’s and your health declines some. You need some help at home.
What exactly happens at that point?
You or a loved one will call the insurance company. They will send a care advisor within a couple days or hours if needed. (Depending upon your needs that person may be an occupational therapist, geriatric care manager, nurse, or insurance company representative.)
That person will come to your home and talk to you and your loved ones about your health situation. They will speak to you about how you are feeling, what type of help you think you need, and what feedback your doctors have given you.
If you have had a major health event that prevents you from fully participating they will speak directly with your family.
Now this can be scary. Having a stranger in your home to talk about how you may be getting weaker can be overwhelming. FEELING THIS FEAR IS NORMAL. The GREAT THING is that LONG-TERM CARE INSURANCE GET’S YOU EXPERT HELP AND TAKES THE BURDEN OFF OF YOUR FAMILY.
The care advisor has six primary roles which you can expect them to fulfill or connect you to the right experts to complete.
- Home assessment: In-home health evaluation by a nurse
- Caregiving plan: Custom caregiving plan (needs, services, costs)
- Finding a home caregiver: Home care providers and specific candidates, provider reviews, coordination of start of care
- Finding a nursing home or assisted living facility (if needed): Nursing home or assisted living candidates, Provider reviews, coordination of start of care
- Cost coverage: Coverage of all or some of the cost
- General advice: Expert counsel about caregiving challenges
As you know, caring for a loved one often comes as the result of health crisis. Thinking seriously about long-term care insurance can HELP LESSON THE BLOW TO YOUR CHILDREN of what will already be a difficult time.
How Much Does Long-Term Care Insurance Cost?
One of the largest concerns people have is the cost of long-term care insurance. I share that concern. It’s not cheap. But let’s get into the specifics. I still think it’s worth it.
Long-term care insurance costs between $1,000 and $3,000 a year depending upon your age and current health condition. If you are married and both of you buy a policy it can be cheaper.
So what does this mean?
Let’s say you’re sixty years old today. You likely won’t need care until you’re in your 80’s or later.
Let’s assume 25 years of paying $2,000 a year. That’s $50,000. With inflation over time and price increases on premium payments to the insurance company let’s be conservative and say $75,000 for the year.
Now $75,000 is a significant amount of money. But if at home care or a nursing home stay is $75,000 to $100,000 a YEAR when you’re 80 it’s likely worth the trade-off.
Today you may be approaching retirement or in retirement already. You may be struggling to think if you’ll outlive your retirement money.
These fears are common. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Millions of Americans are trying to understand how to extend their retirement dollars.
I UNDERSTAND THAT WHEN LOOKING AT A BLEAK RETIREMENT FUTURE AN EXTRA $2,000 A YEAR CAN SEEM INSANE. Your first reaction may be ‘No way!’
There’s two things I would propose that you consider:
#1 Think About Your Children
When you are in your 80’s your children will be sending your grandchildren to college. Then you unexpectedly need at home care your children will need to divert time, energy and potentially significant financial resources to help you.
And to be candid, your long-term care needs could FINANCIALLY DERAIL YOUR CHILDREN’S FUTURE. It is not uncommon for families to SELL HOMES and APPRAOCH BANKRUPTCY because an elderly loved one is in an extended care facility or needs at home care for years. It doesn’t happen to every family, but it does happen to millions of families around the country.
You have direct experience with this with your own parents. Yes, there are weaknesses to long-term care insurance and we’ll get into exactly what those are late on. But think about what has worked well and what hasn’t in caring for your parent.
Getting help matters.
#2 Split The Cost
Long-term care insurance is a partnership between you and your children to have sufficient coverage when it’s needed down the road.
If you’re financially stable and able to pay for the care yourself, fantastic! It’s an amazing gift to give to your children.
If the cost is a little more challenging to bear you can speak to your children about splitting up the cost. Maybe you CAN SPLIT THE PAYMENTS 50/50 WITH YOUR CHILDREN and revisit the decision once every three years. In the lucky case that you have a strong family network you may be able to spread the costs among more people too.
One of the effective ways that you can navigate this discussion with your children is to OFEER TO ADJUST THEIR INHERITANCE if they can help you with the costs now. I know this can be a touchy subject and this may not be the right time. But you can always keep it in the back of your mind.
When Should You Buy Long-Term Care Insurance?
I often hear, ‘When should I buy long-term care insurance?’ or ‘I’m considering long-term care insurance but I don’t know how late in life I can get it.’
These are EXCELLENT and COMMON questions. Most people should consider getting long-term care insurance between their MID-FIFTIES and MID-SIXTIES.
Why? The primary driver is because if you get a major illness (the chances of increases with age) many long-term care insurance companies will not insure you.
Long-term care services are NOT COVERD BY OBAMA CARE. Obama Care attempted to change this with a policy called the Class Act, which would have provided caregiving services to all Americans. Sadly, this legislation failed in October 2011.
This is one large part of healthcare services where pre-existing conditions are still relevant. So take the time now to consider getting the insurance before it’s too late.
Who Should Not Buy Long-Term Care Insurance?
I often hear the guilt trip ‘You should buy long term care insurance’ from INSURANCE COMANIES. I’m always skeptical when anyone uses the word “should”. For me it’s a telltale sign that someone is try to PUSH SOMETHING ON ME who DOESN’T HAVE MY BEST INTEREST IN MIND.
I am a big fan of long-term care insurance but there are some people that shouldn’t get it. The first group is people who are really struggling financially.
IF YOU KNOW SOMEONE WHO IS LIVING PAYCHECK TO PAYCHECK THIS PRODUCT IS NOT FOR THEM. They need to anchor their financial lives in the basics:
- Get 3 months of savings into an emergency fund
- Start contributing to a retirement fund
- Lower expenses ruthlessly
- Bring in more income through part time work
You may not personally be in this position yourself but there are large parts of America that are. If you recommend long-term care insurance to someone and they have a strong emotional reaction it may be because they are financially struggling far more than you know.
The second group who should not consider getting long-term care insurance is PEOPLE WHO ARE WELL OFF. If you have millions of dollars in a retirement account right now you likely don’t need to buy long-term care insurance.
The reason is because the average stay in a nursing home in America is three years. Assuming prices for a nursing home raise to about $150,000 a year by the time you’re 80 that’s $450,000.
As we talked about earlier the cost of long-term insurance will be about $75,000 if you’re 60 today and don’t need to use it until you’re 80.
So you might think a $75,000 payment to avoid $450,000 is a good deal right? If you need care it absolutely is. However you might never need care. Then you’ve lost $75,000 that you’ll never get back.
What are the chances of that?
According to the Federal Government 30% of Americans will never need long-term care. This is why some people with significant retirement funds don’t buy long-term care insurance. They’re betting that they may never need it, but if the case comes up where they do need care, they have the funds available to pay.
The Long-Term Care Insurance Roadmap
By now you have a better idea of why long-term care insurance is helpful for your family. You know how it can LIGHTEN THE BURDEN FOR YOUR CHILDREN.
Next I would like to show you the EXACT STEPS to EFFECTIVELY get the BEST LONG-TERM CARE INSURANCE POLICY.
I’ve worked in insurance for close to ten years. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that people don’t like to talk about insurance.
Insurance is overwhelming and confusing. I often hear ‘I don’t know how it works’ or ‘I’m not sure where to start.’
The result of this is bad. People QUIT BEFORE TAKING ANY STEPS.
So I want to DEMISTIFY this process for you. YOU CAN DO THIS. Together we’ll turn you into a KNOWLEDGEABLE AND CONFIDENT person who knows exactly what type of insurance to consider, how to get it and how to make sure no one cheats you during the process.
Right now it probably feels like a lot. That feeling is NORMAL.
I’ll break down the language and walk you through CLEAR and EASY TO UNDERSTAND STEPS.
Below I am going to review 5 simple steps to identify the long-term care insurance that is best for you.
Step #1: Identify Insurance Companies
It can be challenging to find an insurance company that is a good fit, particularly if you don’t know the players in the space. The key thing is you need to choose a firm that will be around in thirty years when you may need the care.
To SAVE YOU HOURS AND HOURS of time researching I want to provide you with my recommendations. I don’t receive any compensation from these organizations for making these recommendations. I just recommend them to you because I think they’re the best players in the space.
I recommend three companies:
- Genworth Financial – 1-888-436-9678 (Monday – Friday, 8:30am – 8:00pm EST)
- Prudential – 1-800-732-0416 (Monday – Friday, 8:00am – 6:00pm EST)
- John Hancock – 1800-525-4361 (Monday – Friday, 8:00am – 6:00pm EST)
Step #2: Call Companies For Quotes
I know this can feel intimidating. You may feel insecure. You may feel like you don’t know what to say. All of THESE FEELINGS ARE NORMAL.
I want to provide you with IMMEDIATE VALUE by giving you the EXACT SCRIPTS of what to say while you’re on the phone. That way you don’t have to think about it. Just follow the scripts and you’ll do well.
The key thing to remember is that the insurance agent will try to drive you in different directions. You ARE NOT BUYING A POLICY AT THIS STAGE. Instead, you’re JUST LEARNING. Buying will come later (and only if you choose to). At this stage you are having a conversation to learn about pricing.
You: Hi, I was wondering if you could help me get a quote for long-term care insurance.
Agent Bob: Sure, I would be happy to help with that. Can I tell you a bit about my company’s program first?
You: Thank you for the offer, but I’m already familiar with your company and the product in general. Can you please help me with generating a quote?
DRIVE THE AGENT TOWARD PROVIDING A QUOTE. THEY CAN SEND YOU GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE COMPANY BY MAIL, OR YOU CAN FIND IT ON THEIR WEBSITE.
Agent Bob: Yes, but I’ll need some information first, and we don’t give final quotes until we’re able to give the candidate a full medical exam. I can’t give you final quote at this time.
You: I completely understand and I am more than happy to share information about my health and living habits. I’ve talked to other insurance companies, and they’ve been able to give me an initial quote over the phone. Is that something you can do?
DON’T BACK DOWN IF THE INSURANCE AGENT INITIALLY SAYS HE/SHE CAN’T DO SOMETHING. ASK CLARIFYING QUESTIONS, REMAIN CONGENIAL AND PUSH THE CONVERSATION FORWARD.
Agent Bob: Well, I’ll tell you that we have the best product on the market and have extremely high ratings for our customer service and claims process. But yes, I think I can give you a quote over the phone. It may be a range, is that ok?
You: I’d like to get as close as possible to a specific number, but yes, a range is ok.
Agent Bob: Great, what elements of coverage would you like to have?
DRIVE THE CONVERSATION TOWARD TYPES OF COVERAGE.
Answer health questions over the phone
To provide you with an initial quote, an insurance company will need to ask you questions about your health. They’re usually broad and brief. The questions might include:
- How is your health?
- Do you take any medications?
- Do you have any serious medical conditions?
- What is the history of x disease in your family?
The insurance company is trying to pinpoint any red flags (like cancer or dementia). Later on, you will need to participate in a more detailed medical exam by a nurse or doctor.
Step #3: Determine Types of Coverage
Long-term care insurance has a large number of features. In insurance lingo they are often referred to as “riders”.
Insurance agents will TRY AND FOOL YOU with these riders to lower the price so you buy their product. They are very focused on closing the deal and getting their commission.
Remember, you DON’T NEED TO BUY UNTIL YOU ARE 100% SURE it’s the right decision for you.
I want to give you something special. I want to give you a FULL CHEAT SHEET of all the important riders (a.k.a. features). I want to ensure that when you talk to the insurance agent you are 100% PREPARED and FULLY CONFIDENT that you know what you’re signing up for.
Below is a list of my recommendations for what you should choose for each rider. I also provide a briefly explanation for why. This is a good place for you to start. You should feel free to change them as you see fit for your situation.
However I want to SAVE YOU DOZENS OF HOURS AND GIVE YOU A STRONG PLACE TO START.
Coverage Cheat Sheet
|Category & Definition||Coverage You Want|
|Daily Benefit – The percentage of nursing home or home care costs to policy will cover||50% -75%
(refer to “Finding a Nursing Home” (include link) for average costs)
|Inflation Protection – The amount of protection against inflation offered by the policy
|Parent in 60s: 3% compound
Parent in 70s: 2% compound
Parent in 80s: 1% compound
|Elimination Period – Number of days the individual needs to cover costs before the insurance company begins paying||90 days|
|Components of Care – The types of care covered by the policy||All (including home)|
|Coverage Area – The geographical area in which the policy will be active||Across all states|
|Coverage Length – The number of years the policy will pay for costs||3 – 5 years
|Alternative Payment Options – Other types of care (such as by a family member) the policy will pay for||Able to pay a family caregiver|
As you’re speaking with the insurance agent don’t be afraid to adjust or change some of the coverage listed above. EXPERIMENT! SEE HOW IT CHANGES THE PRICE.
I know this can feel like a lot. YOU’RE DOING GREAT! Feel free to take a break. Take one day and make the initial set of calls. Then reflect and call them back later in the week. There’s NO RUSH.
The key thing is once you get to the coverage amounts that you want, WRITE THEM DOWN. Write out the category and the coverage you want.
The reason is because you want to take the EXACT SAME COVERAGE DETAILS to the next insurance company. This is the only way to effectively compare pricing.
Step 4: Arrange For A Medical Exam
The final step to get a physical exam from a nurse or doctor. The insurance company will ask you to do this to confirm your physical health.
This can come in many forms. You can go see a doctor that they recommend in your area. Some insurance companies also send a nurse to your home.
In the end the process will be painless. It’s very similar to a normal physical checkup. Be 100% honest. If the insurance company finds later on that you were dishonest about your health they can remove all coverage and cancel your policy.
One word of caution. THIS IS WHERE MANY PEOPLE QUIT because they’re ‘TOO BUSY’ or ‘FORGOT’.
DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN. STICK WITH IT. You care greatly about not being a burden and YOU’RE THE KIND OF PERSON WHO WILL PUT IN THE EXTRA EFFORT when it’s needed to help care for the people you love. You’re doing great.
Step 5: Purchase The Policy
Once you compare prices across several insurance companies you’ve reached a major milestone. Congratulations! At this point you should feel comfortable with the different coverage types and options.
Before you pull the trigger ask your insurance agent to walk you through the policy. Ask them to explain in regular language the options you chose and the options you did not choose.
I know this can feel like a lot. I know at this stage YOU PROBABLY WANT TO GET THE WHOLE PROCESS OVER WITH.
But this step is incredibly important. You will thank me years down the road. It’s CRITICAL THAT YOU GET THE TYPE OF INSURANCE THAT YOU WANT.
You want a policy that prevents your children from having to change their entire lives to help you. You want rapid assistance so your children don’t see you as a burden.
You want your children to spend their time living their own lives. You want them to happily visit you and bring along your grandchildren.
CONGRATULATIONS! You have done a fantastic job. You’re ready to make an educated and informed decision on if long-term care insurance is a good fit for you.
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In the world of families and money J.D. Roth is a big player. He has written every single day about personal finances on his blog for years.
And yet, one day his mother who suffers from mental illness, drove her car through the back of her garage. J.D. was baffled.
You are not alone. If the guy who writes about financial topics for a living is overwhelmed by an aging parent, millions are facing the same challenges.
It’s normal to feel scared and terrified by what might happen. I’ll walk you through what you can do about it.
One of the most shocking parts of caring for an increasingly elderly parent is the role reversal. All of sudden you find yourself needing to consider at-home arrangements, check in on doctor’s visits and help with the bills.
Particularly for those of us who are professionals and are used to checklists and a structure this can be scary.
“Will Mom accidentally give away money to someone?”
“Is Dad a potential victim of fraud?”
“How can I be sure if Dad is paying all of his bills?”
If you live in another state or hours away by car this can be a real concern.
I have worked with my own parents about organizing their finances and the results have been powerful. We know the overall financial picture. We have set up systems to monitor any out of the norm activity. We have reviewed options to increase income and decrease expenses if needed.
I want to walk you through what I have learned and deliver massive results for you.
“My Brother Deals With That”
Siblings often split responsibilities in caring for an elderly parent. This is natural. However one of the phrases I often hear with regards to money is:
“Oh, my brother deals with that part.”
What’s underneath this comment is ‘I’m scared of money and I feel small because I’m not proud of how I have dealt with my own money.’
Let me assure you now THIS IS SOMETHING YOU CAN DO. You have the ability. I promise. You also may not have a brother or sister who takes care of the money. It may be you pulling the full load and you have fears. That’s ok.
I will walk you through clear and easy to understand steps of how to monitor your parent’s finances. You will feel EMPOWERED and confident that you can protect your parents from financial fraud or getting hurt.
And what you’ll find as your familiarity goes up your confidence will go up too. You’ll see yourself doing the hard work and pushing through. You’ll BELIEVE THAT YOU CAN. You’ll know that you’re capable.
Great. Let’s get started.
How To Protect Your Parent’s Finances Better Than 99% Of Americans
I want to add IMMEDIATE VALUE and start the IMPACT FOR YOU RIGHT NOW. As I look across all of the potential solutions to monitor your parent’s finances, what drives the most value? If I asked you to do one or two things what would they be?
Would it be to sit down with you parents and ask them this question:
‘Mom, I’m concerned about your financial position and I think you should give me total control over your finances.’
Would that work?
Of course not! You might get thrown out of the room!
Instead I want to suggest two strategies that will give you a great deal of insight but won’t rock the boat too much. Both will ensure that your mother RETAINS HER INDEPENDENCE and you will be able to MONITOR and PROTECT her.
Strategy #1: Get Access To Online Checking Accounts
All you need is their password and log in. You may need to work with them to set this up. It’s easier than you may think.
Banks will allow you to set up online access for the for the first time IN 5 MINUTES WITHOUT WALKING INTO A PHYSICAL BANK. This surprises many people but it’s true.
All you need is a few key pieces of information. You will need your parent’s social security or Tax ID number, the number of either their credit card or debit card, and a working email or phone.
Here’s why this approach is so valuable.
You don’t need a complex legal document. You don’t need to go to court. All you need is a candid brief conversation with your loved one (which we will walk through later).
Let’s say you live in another state. Dad’s mental capacity has been dwindling (which often shows first in financial errors). You’re concerned he may forget to pay his rent. Now you’ll know if he does. You’re concerned he’s participating in too many sweepstakes. Now you’ll know if he does.
Getting access to your loved one’s primary account will open up an entire world of information. You can do it from far away, cheaply and quickly.
This is worth pushing for. It will definitely require a conversation with your loved one. But this single step will TRANSITION YOU FROM NOT KNOWING TO KNOWING.
You will be able to spot errors or fraud and take corrective action quickly.
Strategy #2: The Anti-Fraud Approach
Why stop at one strategy? You have great momentum right now. Let’s keep going!
Right now, today you can take one clear action that will put a major dent in anyone’s ability to defraud your loved one. Just like online bank accounts within minutes you can increase your loved one’s protection by 2X or 3X.
What is the secret?
BLOCK INFORMATION FROM THEIR CREDIT AGENCIES. With a small note or online submission you can ask your parent’s credit agencies to block any future credit inquiries.
The impact will be MASSIVE. No one can use your parent’s information to open a new credit card, to start a loan, or to make a major purchase.
If you ever want to open up a new credit card the credit card company “pings” the credit agencies to see your credit. They look at your score to see how well you have paid bills in the past. They see how much outstanding loans you have.
They then use this information to determine your interest rate on your new credit card and how much credit they will extend to you each month.
The same thing is true of a home loan. It’s the exact same process for a car loan.
Blocking your credit agencies is preventing any outside party from pulling your credit. They can’t see anything without your permission. As a result, they won’t give you (or your loved one) a loan.
Many people don’t even know this is possible. However it’s a core pillar of identity theft protection.
How long does it take?
10 minutes! That’s it. (And it’s completely reversible whenever you want).
You can speak with your family about taking this action. However I want to give you the full set of information now. I want you to be able to execute whole process today if you want to.
You just need a few pieces of basic information: full name, address, social security number and date of birth. Each agency will ask you a few questions about past credit events (e.g., in what year your loved one bought a home) so you want to do it with your parent in the room or on the phone
- Equifax – Click Here! – snail mail required
- Experian – Click Here! – 100% online
- Trans Union – Click Here! – 100% online
I know we’ve jumped in quickly but I WANT TO ENABLE YOU WITH IMMEDIATELY EFFECTIVE ACTION STEPS. Monitoring your parent’s bank accounts and locking their credit history has a massive impact upon their financial security.
Now let’s take the next step. Let’s look at what different holistic approaches you can take to watch over your loved one’s finances.
Having The Talk
To take action on many of the steps in this post you will need to speak with your parents. You are their advocate and have their best interests in mind. However, in the end it is their financial future.
This can bring up a series of intense emotions. I often hear phrases like:
‘We’ve talked about money a little bit, but it’s always so hard.’
‘My father never sat me down to teach me about money when I was a kid. It just feels awkward.’
‘My father hates the idea of being dependent on anyone.’
The FEELINGS ARE NORMAL. Many people share them. I want to enable you with some of the language to use to open the conversation. The beginning can often be the hardest part.
One fantastic opener comes from Michelle Perry Higgins. In an article for the WSJ she shares this approach:
“I just met with my financial planner (or estate planner) and she brought up a few questions about my own estate that made me wonder if you also have these issues. I would appreciate your insight on these issues, and I also want to see if you need help in any of these areas. Can we sit down and talk about this on Tuesday at 6pm?”
Scheduling a specific time is important. It increases your chance of actually having the conversation.
Start by sharing your own experience. Share how you have been thinking about your own finances.
A FANTASTIC method that Michelle demonstrates here is to ASK THEM FOR THEIR ADVICE FIRST.
After you have discussed their views ask them what their concerns are for their own situation. Be honest with them about how you feel and suggest a few options.
In this post we will discuss several more topics and walk through specific strategies. However starting the conversation is the most important step. You may not be able to complete everything in that first sitting, but it opens the door.
The 3 Phases Of Taking Over Your Parent’s Finances
We have discussed the two highest value strategies and how to begin the conversation with your parents.
However with time your involvement in their financial life will only increase. Today you are checking in and monitoring. However in the future you may need to take on a larger role.
There are three phases to that transition. I’d like to walk you through each and EXACTLY HOW YOU CAN CONTINUE TO PROTECT THEIR FINANCES & SAFETY.
Protecting Your Parent’s Finances
Fraud is a common threat to the elderly. LET’S NAIL THIS. I WANT TO GIVE YOU THE BEST, MOST EFFECTIVE TOOLS OUT THERE TO COMBAT FRAUD.
The great thing is that the vast majority of them are 100% free. It may take a bit of work but it’s worth it. You’ll sleep better and your loved one will be protected.
We have already spoken about the #1 method to avoid large scale fraud, block your credit agencies. If you haven’t done this I strongly recommend starting with this step.
A large number of elder fraud comes through the mail or by phone. Below are the specific organizations that combat this fraud. I have also outlined exactly what actions you can take.
Direct Marketing Association Choice – Snail Mail
- Enter your loved one’s information
- Block direct marketing advertisers inquiries sent through the mail
Direct Marketing Association Choice – Email
- Same as above
Do Not Call List – Phone
- Enter phone number and contact information
- Remove from call list
- Remove the land line and purchase your loved one a cell phone
- There are fewer fraudulent phone calls on cell phones
- Checkout out Jitterbug5. Bonus of 24/7 access to nursing care if needed
This very well may be sufficient for you at this time. Your Mom may still be independent and some minor protective steps like those above can meet both of your needs. Great job!
However if you’re facing a more severe situation you may want to take further action.
LET’S TAKE IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL. Sadly the elderly can actively participate in scams and fraudulent activity as their mental cognition becomes increasingly impaired. They are also more easily taken advantage of.
Advanced Fraud Protection: 6 Ironclad Steps
Step 1: Change Phone Numbers – Change your parent’s phone number and put them on the do not call list. Switch them entirely from the lists of the marketers who want to take advantage of them.
Step 2: Call Western Union And Put Your Parents On The “Do Not Wire” List – 800-448-1492. A great number of scams ask people to wire funds. You can never get the money back. More info here.
Step 3: Bring Fraudulent Mail To The Post Office – After placing your parents on the Do Not Mail List bring examples of fraudulent mail to the post office that’s still getting through.
Steps 4 & 5 – Enlist Free Advocates – You have advocates. There are two primary ones that will actively call your parents for you and speak to them for free.
- AARP’s Fraud Fighter Center – contract them at 800-646-2283 or email Jean Mathisen, the program director at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Attorney General’s Office – Search for your state’s contact info
Step 6 – Reroute Your Parent’s Mail To You – This can allow you to pass along the relevant mail to your parents (e.g., credit card statement).
Make sure you have a strong relationship with any at home healthcare aids. They can let you know if they see anything on the ground.
Monitoring Your Parent’s Finances
Many people are comfortable with monitoring a parent’s bank account, checking in by phone and taking a few minor steps to prevent fraud.
I think this is great!
You can feel free to get back to your life. A critical thing to remember as your care for your parent is that YOUR LIFE MATTERS. YOUR INDEPENDENCE MATTERS.
(The great thing is when you and your Mom or Dad reaches the next phase you can come right back and check in on what some of the more advance steps are.)
However for those of you who may be facing a more challenging situation keep reading. We’ll go through the EXACT STEPS IN DETAIL and ENABLE YOU to EFFECTIVELY PROTECT YOUR PARENTS.
We have already spoken about monitoring your parent’s bank accounts online. This is the first step and a simple method to monitor her activity. However there are some limits to this approach.
The next step you want to pursue DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY FOR FINANCIAL MATTERS. J.D. Roth calls the durable power of attorney a “flaming sword of justice”. It is fantastic and simple! When you boil it all down it’s a 3 to 5 page sheet of paper. It’s brilliant.
Now you may be saying:
‘Durable power of attorney…wait what?’
I know it sounds like legal mumbo jumbo. It’s normal to feel confused. We’ll DYMISTIFY EVERYTHING INTO 5 SIMPLE STEPS so you know what it is, how it works, and how you can set it up.
Step 1: Familiarize Yourself:
A durable power of attorney is a legal form that says you are able to actively participate in your parent’s finances. It’s a short document and easy to complete. After everyone has signed it you distribute it to financial institutions and they give you full access to your parent’s accounts.
Here are a few things you can do with a durable power of attorney:
- Pay bills
- Pay for healthcare costs
- Move money from one account to another
- Adjust retirement investments
- Pay for medications
This financial flexibility to help your parent is hugely important. Many families find it indispensable during a health crisis or as a parent loses full mental cognition.
Step 2: Speak With Your Parent:
SCHEDULE TIME. Have an agenda and speak with them. Here’s a great way to start:
“Mom, my financial advisor asked me who my back up person was if I fall ill for finances. I wanted to chat with you about what you would like.”
Explain the basics to them. You will be their backup. You’re their right hand person. If they have any major health events you can step in further.
Specifically mention that they can remove you as a legal power of attorney any time they wish. It can always be reversed. They can also nominate someone to monitor your activity with their finances (possibly another family member).
Speak to them about some of the concerns you have. Talk to them about how you can help.
Step 3: Fill Out The Form
The forms are brief and to the point. They ask both individuals to sign (the parent and the child). The form says what specific role the child has.
- Forms differ by state: Here is the form for New York
- Need to be signed in front of a notary public
- Effective upon signing (unless otherwise stipulated)
You need yourself, your loved one, an attorney to review it and a public notary. IT MAY SEEM LIKE A BIT OF A HEADACHE BUT IT’S WORTH IT. Once you complete it you will be able to help and help in a big way. Then give a final copy of all documents to your lawyer for safekeeping.
Step 4: Distribute It To Financial Institutions
Send a photocopy of the form to the financial institutions with your parent’s major accounts. This will inform them of your new role as your parent’s financial agent. Don’t forget this step. WITHOUT THE FORM THEY WILL NOT ALLOW YOU TO DO ANYTHING.
Financial institution may require additional documentation. For example, evidence of your birth certificate. PUSH THROUGH THESE STEPS. Stay focused on the prize. IT’S WORTH IT.
Congratulations! You’re doing a great job.
Step 5: Take Action
Move assets. Pay bills. Set up systems to monitor all of your parent’s activity across their major financial accounts.
A few areas to monitor:
- Checking and savings accounts
- Retirement accounts
- Credit card activity
- Credit score
- Mortgage and other loans
The fantastic thing is that while you are first just monitoring and helping with minor items like paying bills you will be fully empowered to step in if needed. This can be critical if you see fraud or your parent being taken advantage of. You’ll be able to come in and stop unhelpful activity more quickly. You’ll be fully prepared in advance for the difficult challenges.
One critical thing is to sign with your parent’s name. Here is an example:
“Rachel Thompson by Carla Williamson her Legal Power of Attorney”. Rachel is the elderly Mom. Carla is the daughter.
You’re all set. Great work!
YOU ARE FAR FORM ALONE IN YOUR JOURNEY. Below are some blogs of people just like you who are caring for their elderly parents and dealing with family challenges:
- As Our Parents Age – Matri Weston talks about caring for her aging parents
- Help! Aging Parents – Susan speaks about the experiences of caring for her mother-in-law and parents. Susan is experienced educator and counselor
- Let’s Talk About Family – Touching blog about caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s
Fantastic! Now your parent’s financial life is open and you can see where the money is moving. This is huge! You can also monitor to make sure there is no fraud. And as soon as your parents need you to step in and directly help them with their finances you’re all set and ready to go.
Intervening In Your Parent’s Finances: How To Proceed With Guardianship
Near the end of life or full mental deterioration the elderly need a more hands-on approach. The need someone directly managing their finances and major health decisions.
This is particularly true in the final stages of diseases like Alzheimer’s.
This is profoundly sad and challenging time in a family’s life.
I often hear from people:
‘I have lost my Mom. It’s the most awful thing I’ve ever felt.’
‘I feel like I have lost my life entirely. Caring for my Mom is killing me.’
Not all situations are this bleak but the initial transition is heart wrenching. If you are jumping into the process at this stage I first send you an ENORMOUS HUG. This is profoundly challenging.
I know that one of the very last things you want to consider right now is financial or legal matters. The very first thing I would recommend doing is finding help for you. You’re doing a great job and you need support.
There are many active caregiver support communities online where you can CONNECT WITH PEOPLE WHO ARE GOING THROUGH THE EXACT SAME THING YOU ARE. A few of the best in my opinion are:
- Agingcare.com – discussion boards are highly active with many caring people. You can participate anonymously if you wish.
- Caregiving.com – the discussion boards are a bit hard to use. But the site is dedicated towards advice and love for caregivers. Denise Brown runs it and is wonderful. She has dedicated her life to providing caregivers with support.
- Caring.com – experts in the field answer many of the questions on the site. A great place to go for more specific / technical questions.
You may be considering guardianship because your parent has lost cognition. I often hear:
‘My mother just slipped into a coma but we cannot get access to here money.’
In cases like this a court needs to provide transfer guardianship to you or a family member. Here’s exactly what that means:
Let’s get through the legal language and right to the basics.
What is guardianship?
Guardianship is the legal process by which one person takes over another person’s decision-making capacity due to a severe change in mental cognition. It is often a process families pursue at the end of someone’s life. A common example is with the elderly suffering from late-stage Alzheimer’s.
What can a guardian do?
Common decisions include:
- Where they live
- End-of-life decisions
- How their money is spent
- Determination of medical treatments
- Release of confidential information
How limited are a guardian’s powers?
The court determines this. It is common for a court to limit control to a few areas. For example, you may only be given power over healthcare decisions. The court can also split the decision making power between multiple family members.
How long does the process take?
1 to 3 months. Many states have an emergency process in the case of a financial or medical emergency. However if there is a dispute or large family disagreements the process can take longer.
How does this differ from Legal Power of Attorney?
The decisions a guardian can make are broader and include things like where someone can live. Guardianship may also require monitoring by the courts while Legal Power of Attorney does not. Another key difference is that legal power of attorney can be revoked easily by the elderly person at any time they wish. A reversal of guardianship would require a court order.
Do I need a lawyer?
Yes. You technically don’t need one in many states but it’s worth getting one. The fees will be paid out of the estate (not your checkbook). Check here to find an eldercare lawyer.
Make sure you talk with your siblings and family. This is a shared responsibility. Family is often spread across the country. You deserve support and encouragement. You can become each other’s best sounding boards and mutually grow through the experience.
I will cover the full steps of guardianship and how to execute it in another post. At this point I want to say that you HAVE DONE AN EXCELLENT JOB!
Take a moment now and WRITE IN THE COMMENTS TWO THINGS THAT YOU HAVE LEARNED or two things that you are going to take action on.
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I remember speaking with a woman who had been caring for her mother for many years. After a multi-year fight with an illness her mother had passed. My friend felt so out of control during the end of life process that she had no plans for the funeral services. When the day came she cracked open the yellow pages and looked for a place to bury her Mom.
Caring for a loved one is staggeringly challenging. Often you feel more exhausted and depleted than any other time in your life. It strikes you in your core.
You wonder who you are. You question how much you can do. You question how much more of this you can take.
When my grandfather was still alive but dying from cancer I remember one overwhelming feeling: GUILT. I felt deeply guilty for not wanting to be around him when he was sick. I felt paralyzed and useless because I didn’t know how to act.
After a long visit I often felt exhausted. I’m ashamed to say it but I often felt like not wanting to go back.
However I returned often. I visited him many times him during the different stages of his illness. It wasn’t easy but it was deeply meaningful. The emotions of angst, pain, loss, fear, confusion and many more…they were all still there. But I stayed present and with him because I loved him.
It is possible to feel deep pain and to love someone at the same time.
The result of the courage to stay was profound.
We cooked bread together. We wrote letters. We ate together. We shared stories (he of the war, me of college). We talked about Peter Drucker and our many business heroes. We laughed. We smiled together.
I have had similar experiences with almost all the meaningful relationships of my life. A life of CONNECTION and PEACE often requires sitting in DISCOMFORT and PAIN.
The results have been dozens of deep relationships of trust and care. It is literally the most meaningful part of my life. To get there however I needed to learn some critical steps of how to deal with my own emotions and needs. Oddly, I needed to learn to PUT MYSELF FIRST. Then I could help others.
I want to share with you some of the strategies that I used that have changed my own life. I want to share with you the FIVE PROVEN WAYS to get back CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE in 30 MINUTES or less.
#1: Share With Someone
One of the most challenging parts of being a caregiver is caring for yourself. All of us who love deeply seem also to love too freely. We trade our own sanity for the care of a loved one.
There is a better balance. The first turning point for me was being honest with a dear friend about how I was doing. I opened up my heart and shared vulnerably.
At first I did this out of pain. I sought to relieve my own angst and difficulty. But then I realized that the balance I achieved made me a more effective friend, family member and caregiver.
Learning to share my honest feelings with someone else was not easy. I remember the phone call when a friend first asked me for help years ago. It struck me. He was doing something I myself wished I could do.
The result was that a few years later when I was going through some deep challenges I had his example. So I picked up the phone and called him back. Now I needed his help.
Let me GIVE YOU THE PERMISSION RIGHT NOW. You can call a dear friend and tell them how you are doing.
Call the person in whom you have complete trust. Call the person who listens to you. Go where it’s warm.
And here is the special part. When they ask you, “How are you doing?” DON’T LIE. TELL THEM HOW YOU ARE ACTUALLY DOING. You will be welcomed with open arms. Cry if you need to. Get angry. Yell. Be honest and vulnerable.
The both of you will grow closer because of it. You will feel more in control and grounded.
#2: Ask For Support
We are all doers. As a result we think we can conquer mountains on our own. And then one day we realize almost as if out of nowhere ‘I feel vulnerable. Oh my God, I’m failing.’
One of the hardest transitions for caregivers is to ask for help for themselves. We are so willing to give it, but so unwilling to accept it.
I want to challenge you to do one thing. Following this approach will make asking for help easier. It will also have better results.
Next time someone says as they leave you at lunch or are about to hang up the phone after a conversation, ‘Great to talk to you, let me know if there is anything I can do’ …
Say, “Yes, you can do something.”
And then HERE IS THE KEY, tell them a SPECIFIC THING THEY CAN DO FOR YOU. Maybe they can call you later in the week to check in. Maybe they can come watch your Mom to give you an hour off on a Saturday.
Anything really. They WANT to help you. They said so to you with their own words. If you tell them specifically how they can help you it will strengthen your relationship. You will become closer because of it. I guarantee it.
This was a profoundly meaningful change in my life. Asking people for help in specific parts of my life was literally what built strong relationships with people. We were in it together. They felt that they were directly contributing to my life and happiness. And soon, I was able to return the favor to them. We both grew immensely because of it. I felt empowered and enriched.
#3: Write A Gratitude List
One of the strongest fears I hear from caregivers is the fear of losing a loved one too early. The risks feel immediate and treacherous. Maybe Dad will fall without anyone in the house. Maybe Mom may pass in the evening while I dose off in the chair.k
We feel the panic of not being enough. We feel the panic of failing our loved ones.
What’s underneath this fear is a tunnel vision. The world feels incredibly small. Breathing is hard. Everything feels like an emergency.
GRATITUDE can have MASSIVE RESULTS to reverse this pain.
And here’s the secret. Here’s why gratitude can have an impact within a second.
Gratitude WIDENS THE LENS.
Gratitude pulls you out of your immediate experience and gives you context.
Here is a SIMPLE and IMMEDIATE way to take advantage of gratitude. Right now take out a pen and paper. Write the numbers 1 through 5.
Write down five things you are grateful for. If you want to BRING BACK CONTROL to your life even further DEFINE IN TWO SENTENCES HOW YOUR LIFE IS BETTER. Get specific. Talk about how it makes you feel. List the ways you feel connected. List new things you have achieved.
For example, “I am grateful for my son, because when I see him in the morning my entire body lights up with joy.”
I have been doing this consistently for years. This one practice has changed everything.
#4 Tell Someone You Love Them With Your Eyes
One of the things I am most guilty of is spending large amounts of time with people in my life and not telling them enough that THEY ARE MEANINGFUL TO ME.
One year for Christmas I got everyone in my office a personalized book. And then on top of that I wrote each of them a hand written personalized note. It took me two weeks to get everything together.
And it was worth every single minute.
The most striking result was a man I worked with who was a bit of a challenge. He was incredibly smart and effective but he also had a deep temper.
I was standing in his office when he opened the gift and read my card. He looked up at me with tears welling in his eyes said:
“This is incredible. It’s one of the most meaningful things anyone has ever done for me. I don’t know what to say.”
Another person who worked for me burst into tears on the spot.
Part of their reaction was that I struggle to connect with people sometimes. I can be brusque, curt, and even angry at times. The gift was a change.
But the larger reason for tears was how infrequently people are told they are meaningful. When someone takes the time to say those words the action can be overpowering.
The remarkable thing is that telling someone that they are meaningful or that you love them IMPACTS BOTH PEOPLE. The giver and the receiver come away enriched.
Here’s the secret to gaining control of your own life through this step. LOOK THEM IN THE EYES FOR SEVERAL SECONDS WHEN YOU SAY IT.
Don’t look down. Mean it. Show them with your eyes that you mean it.
The two of you will be deeply connected as a result.
#5 Change Your Story
We all live the stories that we tell ourselves. We become what we think we are. For years I felt that I had little to add. There were a few things I was talented at, but on the whole my mind said I was a limited person.
The result was that I felt that way. I felt insufficient. I felt insecure. I refrained from going after new things.
But when I realized that the most important voice for my life was the one inside my own head I began to change that voice. I began to show the voice through action what I could do differently.
I BEGAN TO CHANGE MY STORY.
But here’s the catch. I needed to do the four proceeding steps before this final one.
I needed to share.
I needed help.
I needed gratitude.
I needed to give and receive love.
Then I could grow. Then my story began to change. I became a different more fulfilled, more enriched, constantly growing, constantly helping, constantly striving person.
But I did it all because I choose to.
Take two minutes now and add in the comments 2 actions you can take today to get back control of your life.
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