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Four Lessons Learned about Seeking Assisted Living Care for a Parent

Photo of author, Kathy White, FPQP™, CRPC®.
Kathy White, FPQP™, CRPC®
Retirement Plan Specialist

“The people who live in a golden age usually go around complaining how yellow everything looks.” ~ Randall Jarrell

That quote brings a smile to my face, because honestly that sums up my recent experience in helping my mother adjust to a new way of life…one that involves living in an assisted living facility. We all know that one certainty in life is that we all get older every year. But what we don’t know is what type of care we might need down the road when we hit our proverbial “golden years.”

In my mom’s case, my siblings and I didn’t plan very well and were caught scrambling for answers after her health took a drastic turn for the worse and it was apparent she couldn’t live on her own anymore. She was a Floridian, and we were living 300-400 miles away. It was a trying time for everyone, but had we taken the time to pre-plan for my mother’s care, much of the stress (emotional, physical, and financial) could have been avoided.

As a financial advisor, I feel compelled to share my story and lessons learned to help others avoid the same pitfalls when caring for an aging parent.

Lesson #1: When you notice a decline in your parent’s health, have that difficult conversation and take action — even if they put up a fight.
Unfortunately, that was not the case for my family. My mother had moved to Florida more than 20 years ago. At that time, she was in great shape physically and mentally. Over the course of the next 20 years, however, there was a decline in both of those categories. One big hurdle was that, as we noticed Mom’s decline, we tried to step in and make sure she had everything in place, such as a will, living will, power of attorney (POA), and medical POA. She assured us she had it all but would not share copies or the documents' location. She became very defensive if questioned, saying she was an adult and "did not need her kids prying into her business”.

If you can get this all taken care of before there are health declines, it will make things much easier when the time comes when they are truly needed.

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Lesson #2: Consult a financial advisor to make a plan for your parent’s financial challenges: living and medical expenses, taxes, household bills, etc.
Conquering the financial challenges that lie ahead for an aging parent is probably the most daunting task for adult children. But rest assured, a trusted financial advisor can help you project income, expenses, and then map out a strategy that works for everyone.

Lesson #3: Consult a Senior Living Advisor for guidance and facility referrals.
It was August 2017, when my sister and I visited our mom in Florida, that it became obvious to us she was not going to be able to live on her own any longer. Of course, Mom didn’t feel that way and that made for some difficult conversations. This is when we turned to A Place for Mom, which was crucial step for my family.

Our consultant, Denise Johnson, was a life-saver. She worked closely with us to find a place that met all of Mom’s personal needs, as well as our needs concerning cost, location, services, etc. She really helped to make a difficult transition go as smooth as possible by understanding my our concerns, researching facilities that met our criteria, and showing Mom (and us) the many advantages of assisted living life.

If you're looking for a facility for your parent and don't know where to start, I highly recommend taking advantage of the professional services provided by senior living advisors. Don't go it alone!

Lesson #4: Every state has different laws and guidelines, so seek help from a knowledgeable professional about your parent’s (and your own) legal documents; get them in order (and secured) sooner, rather than later.
As I mentioned earlier, Mom did not have the necessary legal documents, so it made our situation more challenging. My recommendation: It’s never too early to get the critical documents — a will, living will, POA, and medical POA — in place and secured in the proper location. Seek the advice of an attorney about what documents are necessary in the state where your parent resides. Life has a way of happening whether we are ready or not, so be proactive! Without a doubt, taking this step will lessen your stress and ensure your parent’s wishes are being followed.

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