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Tough Talks with Parents – Part 1

Tough Talks with Parents - Part 1In earlier posts I have talked about some ways to broach difficult subjects with an older parent, talks that are about life changes, one of the harder among them was giving up the car keys. This is going to be the first in a two-part series in which I will offer perspectives on some of the changes in life where you as the child of an older parent may be required to step up to help your parent or see that proper help is available.  The second part will be devoted to conversations about preparations for end of life, life’s final transitions.  It may surprise you to learn that the former can be a lot more difficult than the latter.  Harder because everybody expects to die someday, but many people have greater difficulty in addressing their potential loss of independence along the way.

Power of Attorney.  You may want to talk with your family attorney before this conversation so that you can keep the details straight.  There are two types of power of attorney (POA): one for health care and one for finance.  The legal system has defaults in place to handle decisions for a person’s finances or health and well-being if they are deemed unfit to do so on their own.  However, those decisions have to go to a judge and the process can be time-consuming and costly.  If one of your older parents is unable to make financial decisions – and they own property jointly with their spouse – it becomes difficult to liquidate the house if funds are needed for long term care or other health care issue.  Health care POA can offer similar relief in the event your older parent requires some choices in where and how they will be cared for.  In both cases, it can be easier to broach the subject if you, yourself, have had the papers drawn up for your own situation and offer your own experience and questions as an example to your parents.  At any age, there is benefit in knowing that decisions will be made in our best interests if we cannot make them ourselves.

Long Term Care Insurance.  Assisted living or home health care can be expensive, and the right long term care (LTC) policy can make life a lot easier to the bear financially.  But be aware that there are a lot of different types of policies with an array of benefits and payout mechanisms.  And the cost to buy LTC insurance will depend on the age at which you sign up as well as some other variables.  To be sure you are getting your or your parents’ money’s worth, look for an independent broker who is not captive to a single insurer. But before you talk with a broker about your older parent, check out an authoritative source.  The American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance has a consumer information section you may find helpful.  And as with the conversation about POAs, you may investigate a policy for yourself as a foundation for having the conversation with your parent.  Part 2 will post on Thursday.

            Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Case Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago.  Please email your questions to



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