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SENIOR ADVOCATE

By Liza Horvath

 

Taking Care of Mom

 

One of the more difficult transitions in life is when the caregiver becomes the one that needs to be given care. As children of aging parents we will most likely face either the slow decline of a parent or an emergency situation requiring us to learn more than we ever wanted to know about “senior issues “ like Medicare, hospitals that will only discharge to a skilled nursing facility and the tricky minefield of the in-home caregiver industry. This transition – whether slow or sudden – will pull on heartstrings, incense your sensibilities and will, most likely, be one of the most challenging seasons of life.

 

When we are children we rely on our parents for everything – food, shelter and care and as adults we look to them for advice, emotional support and, if we are fortunate, friendship. When the tide turns and we must now advise our parent or take over and make decisions for them, the shift of roles can be emotionally derailing for both our parent – and for us.

 

The true challenge, however, is at what point should a child take control of a parent’s finances, living situation or medical care? Do we hover nearby as mom begins to mentally falter and wait for a “good time” to take the reins? Are there steps that can be taken to both safeguard a vulnerable parent but still allow them the dignity of their continued independence? It is a slippery slope because we may not be nearby if they receive a call from a scammer posing as a granddaughter in need of cash or if they forget to take needed medications. When does respect for their independence become dangerous?

 

There are no “one size fits all” answers to these questions because they depend entirely on your relationship with your parent and your parent’s ability to recognize their own mortality. In the best of all worlds our parent would come to us, their trusted child, and say, “I’m not as sharp as I used to be and I need you to take over my finances, help me find a long-term care facility I can move to and go with me to my doctor’s appointments so I can better communicate and understand my medical situation.” This would be perfect but until the “Stepford Parent” is produced, adult children of aging parents must find ways to help parents make these transitions comfortably.

 

The first step is to admit to ourselves that our beloved parent will age and die - and find peace with this fact. No small task in and of itself but only then can we go to our parent and with kindness offer our support. If a parent is initially resistant, at least they are aware that you care and are willing to help. If you are an aging parent, admit that you may need help – maybe not now but in the future - and make sure your appointed representative has the needed information and documentation. It is a kind and loving thing to do for your family. The psychological shift for both children and the aging parent is challenging enough – with honesty and planning, perhaps it can be made slightly less daunting for both.

Liza Horvath has over 30 years experience in the estate planning and trust fields and is the president of Monterey Trust Management, a financial and trust management company. This is not intended to be legal or tax advice. If you have a questions call (831)646-5262 or email liza@montereytrust.com

 


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