Insights & News

April 2015

Family Togetherness Helps In Caring For Aging Parents

It can happen gradually or overnight, but sooner or later most adult children must coordinate care for one or both parents, a situation that puts tremendous strain on sibling relationships. The best outcomes come when family conversations are held well in advance, ideally by the time parents are in their early 70s. Without a plan, the burden often falls on the sibling (typically a daughter), who lives closest to the parent, creating enormous stress for her, coupled with resentment toward her siblings.

Many families plan for medical needs, but forget about the day-to-day tasks like transportation; shopping and personal care appointments; home maintenance; and managing finances – too much for one sibling to handle on her own. Thanks to technology and a growing industry of professionals dedicated to helping with older adults, it is easier for out-of-town or working adult children to share the burden. The sibling with a more flexible schedule might be the best suited to visit the parent or check on hired providers, while others can do research, coordinate care and handle insurance and finances online. Siblings who are not able to provide in-person support might also consider contributing financially so additional in-person support may be hired.

Before a parent’s mental capacity diminishes, make sure that financial power of attorney (POA) and advanced medical directives (AMD) are in place. A financial POA executed by the parent gives one or more people the power to conduct financial transactions and legal business on their behalf. Multiple siblings can be listed in the POA but unless there are extenuating circumstances, it is best to structure the POA so that only one sibling’s signature is required for a transaction. You can find a template for a Maryland Statutory Financial POA here: oag.

Advanced medical directives help to avoid conflict among siblings when it comes to making difficult decisions regarding a parent’s care. An AMD will authorize an agent to make medical decisions on behalf of the parent and will also detail the parent’s wishes for treatment and end of life decisions, thus removing the burden from adult children while easing tensions between siblings who may disagree. You can find information and a template to create a Maryland Advanced Directive here: oag.state.

While never easy, with advanced planning and solidarity, caring for an aging parent can bring families and siblings together. Here are some suggestions.

Lyn Dippel, JD, CFP®, President of FAI Wealth Management, provides financial planning and investment management for transitions such as retirement, career changes, sale of a business, relocation and inheritance.*

This article originally written for the Her Mind, Her Money Column.

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