Disclaimer: Mom & Dad, if you are reading this, this is NOT about you. This is about other people’s aging parents… I promise.
A shocking number of my friends and former classmates’ parents have already passed away. Parents that are the same age as my own – aging… but certainly too young to be considered “old.”
It’s scary to think about your parents getting older, isn’t it? Death is scary, but so is the fact that your parents may one day be unable to handle tasks that were once so simple.
More responsibility rests on you as your parents age, and you don’t want to let them down, so you’ll need to learn how to assist aging parents.
Here are suggestions on simple ways to assist aging parents IF/when they need it:
1. Understand their cash flow
Identify where all their income is coming from and where their expenses are going. Consider making an excel sheet or using an app like Mint.
2. Move their monthly bills to auto-pay
Paying bills is time consuming. As people age, these kinds of tasks can become more stressful. If your parent has shown signs of forgetfulness, this is a must! It only takes a few short minutes to get most utility bills on auto-pay.
Tip: Many insurance companies allow clients to designate someone to be notified if a payment is missed (to avoid a lapse in the policy). Do this!
3. Get them a password manager
Consider tools like Dashlane or LastPass where they can securely store all their passwords for their online accounts. If you want a free tool, Google Docs can be adapted for this use.
Tip: They can “share” certain passwords with you on these programs, so you can help monitor their accounts or access them in case of emergency.
4. Create a document with their account numbers and related contact info
If you have a password manager, you can store their account details there. Otherwise, create a document listing their financial accounts, utilities, and policies. Make sure the list includes account numbers, companies, and contact information. You’ll want to be sure this document is securely stored, electronically backed-up, and accessible to you in case of emergency.
5. Organize their filing cabinet
You probably won’t get all your parents’ information fully online. A filing cabinet is a necessity. Be sure the cabinet is organized, so you and they can easily access important documents. Read my tips on how to organize a filing cabinet.
6. Make copies of their estate & insurance documents
If you have access to their filing cabinet or are certain the attorney has copies, you may not need this step. However, it is assuring when you have copies of this important information in case of emergencies.
If they have a long-term care policy, get familiar with it. If they ever have a stay in a facility, you will want to ensure the policy provider is notified right away, so your parent can receive the benefits owed to them.
7. Confirm they listed their desired beneficiaries
If your parents are comfortable discussing this topic, assist them in reviewing the beneficiaries on their accounts. Have your parents confirm the beneficiary(s) is indeed listed, and it is whom they intended.
8. Get to know their legal and financial professionals
Ask your parents if you can attend their next meeting with their legal and financial professionals. Seeing you engaged and informed may bring them peace of mind. Often, the professionals also appreciate the opportunity to assist your parents alongside you.
If they don’t have estate documents yet, read these tips on how to start an estate plan.
9. See if any accounts can be consolidated
It is difficult enough managing our own lives, so try to assist in simplifying your parents’ financial picture. Help them find out if any accounts can be consolidated. Read why this is so important HERE.
10. Consider freezing their credit
Scam artists target aging people. Unfortunately, so do some “friends” and family members. Using your parents’ information, someone can open new lines of credit without their knowledge. If your parents don’t actively monitor their credit reports, it could take months or even years to discover. If your parents don’t need new credit, help them freeze it.
Credit Karma has a helpful article explaining how.
When you freeze your credit, no one, including you, can open a new line of credit without first unfreezing it with a secret PIN.
If you suspect your parent is being manipulated or abused, report it right away. Elder abuse is a serious issue. The Department of Health and Human Resources has resources HERE.
11. Respect their privacy
This might be the best way to assist aging parents. Don’t try to butt into your parents’ affairs if they are not ready for it. If you see signs of cognitive decline, gently explain that you are willing and able to assist them. Talk through your ideas on how they could simplify their lives.
They then must invite you in.
It is your parents’ lives, and it is essential that they feel an appropriate amount of control over it.
I encourage you to be proactive and positive! Take one step at a time, ask for help when you need it, and above all, love your family and yourself well.