grandparents-1054311_640Are you prepared for the call in the middle of the night?

As women, we are often expected to fill multiple roles: loving mother, career woman, supportive wife or partner and for many, a new role – that of a caregiver to aging parents or disabled loved ones.

For the last 25 years, I have helped clients create financial plans for their “golden years” and address issues of aging and remaining independent.

We all dread the idea of that “call in the night” – the one that means we must step into the “Designated Daughter” role, manage our parent’s or loved one’s lives and make tough decisions about their care, finances and welfare. But for many of us, that call will come, and it pays to have everything in place in advance.
I still remember when I got the phone call that my step father had fallen and was in the hospital at 86.  It was a blessing in disguise because we found out he had lung cancer and were able to sell his home and have a new home waiting for him and my mother in a retirement community where they could get more care.

During his last week with us, my step-father called me his miracle worker while he was in Hospice lying on his hospital bed in the middle of the living room.  You see, my mother was diagnosed with Dementia during the last month of his illness and because of the financial and estate planning we did 15 years before, not only did my mother have nothing to worry about financially, but his estate would be protected for his children after my mother’s death.  I am so grateful they were open to planning when options were plentiful and affordable.  You can do this same type of planning.  It’s a beautiful thing.

Here are five steps that you can take now to get prepared:

Step 1 – Get Organized

Before attempting to discuss financial, tax and estate planning issues with your loved ones, be sure to sit down with a financial adviser and get your own life plan in order.

Step 2 – Initiate “The Discovery Conversation” with Your Loved Ones

One way to initiate this conversation is to ask them what they would do if something happened to you. Do they know the names and contact information of your advisors? Do they know your doctors? Do they know where to find documents such as your will, or medical forms? This may help lead the conversation into what your role would be for them. Are you needed as a caregiver, a trustee, or a personal representative? Who else might be involved? Knowing this up front will help you plan for your own future.

Step 3 – Start Planning as Early as Possible

Don’t wait until the unexpected happens. It’s never too early to start planning for the unexpected. Meeting with an attorney, financial planner and insurance agent to create the proper planning may be all it takes to make sure your needs are met. Planning early when your have the most options makes sense – being proactive rather than reactive.

Step 4 – Consider Purchasing Long Term Care Insurance

Start the conversation when your parents or loved ones are young and healthy and then suggest that they apply for long term care insurance as early as possible. We are living much longer and the need for healthcare and related services is exploding. In fact, seriously consider purchasing your own policy now while you are still healthy and the premiums are affordable!

Step 5 – Create a Team of Trusted Advisers

This is not the time for-do-it-yourself-planning. Find a “key adviser” who is an elder-care expert and have them manage the team with you based on your loved ones goals, values and objectives. The final product should enable your loved ones to maintain their dignity, lifestyle and assets. It should also meet the needs of the caregiver. The end result: everyone involved should be able to sleep better at night knowing all concerns have been addressed and that a team and a plan is in place to meet the unexpected.

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