Get the documents you’ll need. No one wants to imagine dire circumstances. Still, planning for the worst is sometimes the best preparation going. That holds true for elder care as well. If you plan to care for elderly parents, you should have several documents set up as contingencies, such as a durable power of attorney, a revocable trust covering your parents’ assets and a privacy authorization that allows you to speak with doctors about your parents’ health. In some cases, they will help you make the best decisions for parents who may be ill or incapacitated. Under other circumstances, they’ll make it possible for you to handle your parents’ financial affairs in order to ensure that the seniors you care for are comfortable.
A power of attorney on its own appoints you or someone your parents select to manage affairs or make decisions concerning property, financial accounts, some specific assets or even a healthcare issue. A durable power of attorney is a document that has to be established while seniors are of sound mind and can remain in effect even if a parent is somehow incapacitated. A revocable trust places parents’ property under the supervision of a designated trustee who can make financial decisions under circumstances that can be outlined in the trust. Finally, because of healthcare privacy laws under the HIPAA or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, a care provider should have parents’ sign an authorization that will allow them to stay in know about important medical issues.
Hermann Eisele, a St. Louis estate planning attorney with the law firm Weiss & Associates P.C., recommends that you see a lawyer who specializes in elder care issues. “I’ve seen people fill out downloaded Internet documents, or have forms filled out at a service center that just do not have the proper terms and language,” says Eisele. “Cutting corners that way can create problems down the road.” The attorney also says that a good elder care lawyer will help elderly parent screen just what people they designate to have certain very critical responsibilities.
Know how to make finances last. Elder care costs can mount in a hurry. “Many people are under the mistaken impression that Medicare will foot the bill; It will, to a very limited degree, for care as a result of a medical procedure, but if you’re depending on it for the long-haul, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise,” Myers says.
A talk with a financial planner can clear up what funds are available and how you and your parents can stretch them out. You’ll need to know how much social security and retirement account funds are available, what are the best and most tax efficient ways to draw on accounts, and how to ensure that money earmarked for care services is not only liquid, but earns the most return when not in use. For parents who have paid their home off, options such as a reverse mortgage can help tap into funding possibilities embedded in a very valuable asset. Finally, a good planner will know tax breaks offered to seniors for care devices.