How to have the conversation as you notice a parent's decline

While the primary focus is gratefulness and enjoyment together as a family gathers, it also may be the opportune time to discuss the care of aging parents.

People can be resistant to the conversation of needing a different living arrangement, help with self-care, changes in investment decisions, or turning over the car keys, and oftentimes there’s grief associated with these life changes.  However, no one wants to be charting the course for care for a loved one in the middle of a crisis, so having an open conversation with family members first could help outline the best approach.

Driving Assessment

A Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist (CDRS) can assess a parent’s driving skills and make unbiased recommendations.  A physician may be able to do the same based on sight, hearing and general response capabilities. These resources could curb a parent’s resentment toward a family member removing this privilege.

Assisted Living Consultation

Common signs for a change in residence are a decline in housekeeping or personal hygiene, forgetting to take medications, an increase in falls or a struggle to perform basic daily living activities.  Senior placement agencies can assist in determining what type of care and facilities are needed in specific cases.

Trusted Person Contact

Advisors recommend that elderly clients name a trusted contact to their investment accounts. This person can be a relative or third-party professional, with the expectation for responsibly and ethically making decisions should the elderly parent’s judgement or mental capacity begin slipping.  The danger is that the older person trusts a caregiver or someone in a position to harm them financially, so it’s a good idea to let the family know who has been designated for this role.

Trust and Estate Documents

Ensuring that the proper documentation is in place while parents are coherent is critical in avoiding the probate process and transferring assets and gifts in the most tax efficient ways.  While the family is together for the holiday, make sure there is an inventory of tangible and intangible assets and a known directive of trusts, POAs and beneficiaries.   If a Trust and Estate Plan are in place, the family gathering may be a good time to review life, circumstance or law changes that could warrant a revision to the Plan.

While elder care is a difficult topic, having transparent conversations about options before a crisis occurs gives ample time for processing and agreement.  Ultimately, tough conversations in the short term give the family more confidence and peace as changes occur over time.

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