It’s hard to think about our parents aging, but being prepared can ease the stress and make difficult decisions go more smoothly. Being able to make choices about the continued care of your parents while they still have the cognitive abilities to express their wishes is the first step. Use these 10 questions to start the discussion every adult child should have with his or her parents. They were compiled by expert advice from Corey Vallandingham, marketing director of Springhurst Pines, and Kelly Gannott, elder law attorney. You might want to think about these questions for yourself as well.
- Who do you want to handle things if you are unable to handle them yourself?
“It’s important to know who your parents want to handle their finances or health care decisions if they are not able to anymore,” Gannott says. “It may be you, your sibling, or someone totally different. It’s important to designate this person before decisions need to be made. Also, always have a backup person just in case the first person that was designated is unable to make the decisions.”
2. Do you have a power of attorney document in place? Can that power of attorney create a trust?
“So many people wait too long to get a power of attorney document in place,” Gannott says. “If someone is in the nursing home and they apply for Medicaid, Medicaid may make them have a trust. A qualified income trust is set up for those whose income exceeds the eligibility criteria for receiving Medicaid. The income that exceeds eligibility will go into the trust and can be used for nursing home costs. If the power of attorney document doesn’t allow the power of attorney to create a trust, they may never get Medicaid.”
3. Do you have a trust? Are you interested in setting up a trust?
“There are many different types of trusts, one of which is a revocable living trust. This trust can keep your family from having to go to probate court,” Gannott says. “There is an irrevocable living trust, which cannot be changed and will protect your assets. Another trust is a special needs trust that allows beneficiaries with special needs to get an inheritance.”
4. What type of long-term care facility are you comfortable with, if needed?
“Many places are too fancy for some people, so it is important to know what makes them feel comfortable,” Vallandingham says. “It is also good to find out the differences between assisted living and personal care facilities. Assisted living doesn’t offer medical care, but personal care is licensed to offer medical care. If you choose personal care, find out if they have 24/7 medical care.”
5. Are you interested in visiting some assisted living facilities?
“Visiting facilities now can help ease the process,” Gannott says. “So when the time comes and your parents are not able to make that decision, then you have already visited places and know which ones your parents preferred.”
6. At what point do you feel it would be time to move into an assisted living facility, nursing home, or retirement community? Would it be when it is hard to make meals? Do housework? No longer perform proper hygiene?
“Everyone wants to stay at home, and that is the goal, but what is your parents’ idea of when it’s time to leave home?” Gannott says. “This is important to know so that when the time comes, you can remind your parents of what they said and see if they still agree with making the move.”
7. How much out-of-pocket do you want to spend for long-term care? Do you have long-term care insurance?
“All assisted living and personal care facilities are private pay,” Vallandingham says. “Medicare and Medicaid only come into play when a nursing home is needed. Some facilities check finances and want you to have two years of private pay. Look over your long-term care insurance and call to see what their stipulations are.”
8. Are you making any gifts to charity?
“So many people don’t think about giving gifts to charity,” Gannott says. “They think about wanting their family to benefit, and that’s great, but their church or the Girl Scouts might have played a large role in their lives, and they could leave a lasting legacy.”
9. If you have a child pass before you, do you want the inheritance to go to your son or daughter’s spouse, children, or siblings?
“Sometimes people assume if a child passes before the parents, their spouse will take the inheritance by default, but this isn’t true,” Gannott says. “The spouse getting the inheritance must be written in the will.”
10. How would you like to see your continued care handled?
“I know this is an all-encompassing question, but a lot of times we don’t want to have this conversation about the end of life or planning for the future,” Gannott says. “So, if we can think about it as being a continuation of the wishes of our parents, then it becomes an easier conversation to have.”
By Torie Temple