By Robert Martin, CIMA

As baby boomers move closer to their retirement, they also face challenges in their own families as many find themselves caring for aging parents. This can be overwhelming both physically and emotionally and if there hasn’t been any planning done by their parents it can be quite difficult.

The first item on your agenda is opening channels of communication between you and your parents. Many parents are not used to giving their financial data to their children as a matter of privacy and old fashioned values; you need to talk to them about their future. With all the options available they need your help and you’ll need the help of others.

They may resent your help and view it as interference in their lives. If that’s the case you’ll want to gather as much information about options beforehand. If they are in the situation where presently they are endangering their health and safety you may be stepping in as a caregiver.

Start your planning by gathering information about their needs and wishes. Begin with a personal data record. This is the data that will be important in case of incapacitation or death. Include all financial, legal, and medical information, insurance policies and the contact information of professional advisors such as lawyers, accountants and financial advisors. The location of important papers and records is another area that will be important. If you find there is no will, health care proxy, or durable power of attorney, you won’t be able to help make decisions about medical care. If they have safe deposit boxes, find out where they are and how to access them.

The good news is there are many resources available to help you and your family. The professionals can be especially useful if you live far from your parents. Some of them are available at no charge, though most will charge a fee for their services. These professionals can give you the local advice available to help you care for your parents. Some employers have Employee Assistance Programs that offer advice and assistance to people who are caring for aging parents. The local Council on Aging or senior center in the area where your parents live can be an excellent resource to begin gathering information.

After gathering the data, the next item should be housing and health advice as it covers a great deal of the decision making process. You’ll need to know if they want to stay where they are, and what options are available. This is especially important to consider based on their health. Will they be able to stay at home or in a retirement community or nursing home? Another option is to have them move in with you. Health advice is needed to better understand the cost of health-care, long term care insurance, and overall major medical coverage along with Medicare and Medicaid. This information will provide your alternatives and affordability as you make these important decisions.

Next, you’ll need to review an outline of their financial information. Financial advice would include a financial planner, banker, and CPA. And don’t forget the Social Security Administration.

As mentioned earlier a comprehensive view of their financial picture will help determine many of the options available. This advice combined with legal information will determine the documents already in place and those that will need to be completed. These documents would include power of attorney, medical directives, and living wills.

The presence of a trust document and whether it is revocable or irrevocable is central to many issues you may need to deal with, and the tax advice associated with the estate is relevant. You’ll also find many attorneys that specialize in elder law. Many states provide funds for the delivery of free legal advice to the elderly.

Community services are also great resources for your aging parents. Depending on the specific situation there is information about adult day care, caregiver support group, services provided by churches and temples, community centers, and senior centers.

There are also support groups for caregivers that will help you understand specific topics and provide assistance in coping as a caregiver. They can also provide information and training needed to help your parents. Groups include: Alzheimer’s Association; Children of Aging Parents; and the National Self-Help Clearinghouse.

It’s important to recognize that you’re not alone and there are services and resources available to help you and your parents through a challenging and unfamiliar time of life. Take a moment to ensure that you know your options, the wishes of parents, and the complexities that you’ll be dealing with. Having the information at hand will make for an easier path in caring for your aging parents. Good luck!

Robert Martin is an Investment Executive with Infinex Investments Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. Cape Cod Financial Services, located at The Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod. He can be reached at (508) 568-1250 or rmartin@infinexgroup.com.

Investment and insurance products and services are offered through INFINEX INVESTMENTS, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. Cape Cod Financial Services is a trade name of the bank. Infinex and the bank are not affiliated. Products and services made available through Infinex are not insured by the FDIC or any other agency of the United States and are not deposits or obligations of nor guaranteed or insured by any bank or bank affiliate. These products are subject to investment risk, including the possible loss of value.