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Talking with parents about illness & finances

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This topic contains 9 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by avatar Kate 5 months ago.

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  • #677682 Reply
    Anon from LA

    Recently my dad had a bit of a health scare. Luckily he’s fine, but it made me think about what would happen to my parents in the event that they had to deal with a major health crisis. I’d like to have a conversation with them about that: specifically, how would they like to be cared for in a health crisis and what plans/financial resources they have in place if they can no longer work due to health problems.

    First, some background… My parents are in their early 60s. My mom has some minor-ish health problems (nothing life-threatening or that would prevent her from working) but is otherwise fine. My dad is active and healthy for his age. They have health insurance but not a ton of savings.

    My mom doesn’t make enough (even with social security) to support both herself and my dad. If she weren’t able to work, my dad would be able to support her. My dad works full-time, long hours, and doesn’t have enough savings to retire. In five to ten years, he might have enough money to drastically reduce his working hours. I’m not sure when (or if) he’ll have enough money to retire completely.

    It would be very tough on my parents if my dad were unable to work, both emotionally and financially. Most likely, my husband and I would be the ones to step in and offer financial help. I don’t think we could count on much help from other family members (either they don’t have the money or they can’t be counted on).

    There’s also the issue of distance: my parents have a few friends who might be able to help them out, but they don’t have much family nearby. I live about 2000 miles away, so there’s only so much hands-on help I can offer.

    Anyway, all this to say: Does anyone have advice on how I can initiate a conversation about this with my parents? Obviously, it’s a sensitive issue, and normally I’d say their health and money is none of my business. But I’d like to know what they have planned because it will probably impact me directly.

    I don’t think they have a will or anything like that, but I’m going to bring that up as well. I’m a big believer in having a POA and a DNR so that family members know what to do when the worst happens.

    #677684 Reply
    Anon from LA

    And if you all think I should just mind my own business, then I’ll totally do that. 🙂

    #677686 Reply

    I had this conversation with my mom. She says she’s going to do a will but keeps putting it off. I have to keep bugging her about it.

    To bring it up, maybe just say that your dad’s health scare made you realize that you don’t know what their desires are in the event that you have to make a medical decision for them. Or, what they’d like done after their deaths. It might feel awkward, but it’s a necessary conversation. I also told my mom that I wanted her to choose an executor. We have some family dynamics going on that require it all to be very clear. My recommendation to her was to have my husband and my sister’s husband be co-executors. That way none of her kids have to do it while in mourning, and both our husbands are very fair-minded people and my mom knows that. She liked that suggestion.

    #677687 Reply

    This is TOTALLY appropriate for you to bring up. Luckily my family is very good about planning these things. My mother is only 55 and healthy so it is far off for her however she has informed me of her wishes, what she would like me to do in regards to her property, how my uncle is currently executor of her estate with all coming to me in the end, etc. She has him doing this as it was set up when I was a bit younger and likely would not really be able to handle the responsibility and because he is a financial planner.

    My grandparents also have this in order for her and my uncle when that time comes.

    A health scare is a great way to bring the conversation up. I would also think that it could maybe be phrased best (if you have hesitation) with something along the lines of “Dad’s health scare made me think of what could happen in the future and I want your wishes to be known should anything ever happen so that I can honor them”. Along with end of life care wishes, finances, etc are usually included so it would all happen fairly naturally.

    #677693 Reply

    I think the details of their health sitch aren’t strictly your business and they may not be comfortable speaking about that (though they may). But their plans for care should they become incapacitated are absolutely something you can discuss with them. My dad handed me a POA about 10 years ago. He told me everything else is in this one desk drawer. I know who their financial planner is. There’s a plan for my brother, who is challenged, which involves a trust.

    My dad just straightforwardly told me these things, very matter of fact, and that they have enough money to live to 110. Probably longer, because they decided to keep working, 4 days, at a nonprofit rather than retire.

    I think it’s totally legit to just ask them if they have a plan should anything happen to them, and what about a POA and will. If they don’t, help them find a lawyer, because they need to, for their own best interest and so you don’t have to go through all that probate shit. Just ask.

    #677698 Reply

    I also know exactly how they’d like to be cared for.

    #677861 Reply

    Your parents’ elder care plans ARE your business, since the bulk of their implementation will likely fall to you, so do not delay in asking them. If they become incapacitated without a plan in place, you are in for a real shit show. (My mom’s entire life for the past 5+ years has been caring for and making arrangements for my grandparents, and it’s exhausting and time-consuming and a PITA and requires lawyers and financial planners, to the extent that even she’s already gotten HER affairs in order and given me all the legal info I need to care for her when her time comes, even though that’s likely 10-20+ years away, so I don’t have to go through the hell she did.) RedRover has it right on – “just say that your dad’s health scare made you realize that you don’t know what their desires are in the event that you have to make a medical decision for them. Or, what they’d like done after their deaths.” And I would add say that you don’t know about what their retirement plans are, or their desires should they become incapacitated and need in-home care, or assisted living, or nursing home care, and who will have the power of attorney for them.

    #677907 Reply
    Leslie Joan

    Anon, good for you for thinking ahead. I don’t think you’re out of line at all.

    One of the things I did for my parents was to recognize, when they were getting older, that they were just too darn cheap to want to spend the money on an attorney to get their legal affairs in order. They were also worrying about how to divide things among their 4 grown kids, and looking for any reason to put it off. I decided I would try to remove the barriers, and told them it didn’t matter how they chose to disburse the estate, but that I would come and haunt them if they didn’t do SOMETHING (grin) – and I told them I was sending them a generous check to use for attorney’s costs to get everything put together. I told them, in a nice way, that I hoped they accepted it in the spirit in which I was giving it, and that whatever they chose, it would be a gift to the whole family to have everything settled and know what they wanted, and now they had no reason not to do it. To their credit, they did take it well, and did use it to set up a will and POA, and it was a relief to all of us and a great if strange sort of gift.

    #677990 Reply
    Anon from LA

    Thanks for the advice, everyone! And for confirming that I’m not overstepping by bringing this up. I think they’ll be open to having this conversation. A woman I work with has been dealing with elder care issues, and it made me think that my life will be a lot easier in the long run if I deal with this issue now.

    @Leslie Joan: I like the idea of sending a check to my parents to cover the attorney fees. I even know an attorney who would do it for them, possibly at a discounted rate. So maybe I’ll suggest that they talk to him and, if the fees are too expensive, I’ll cover them.

    @_s_: “I would add say that you don’t know about what their retirement plans are, or their desires should they become incapacitated and need in-home care, or assisted living, or nursing home care, and who will have the power of attorney for them.” -> Yes, this is one of my primary concerns. If the worst happens, I know I’m going to be very emotional. It would be much easier if they could tell me what they want and have planned for NOW, before they are unable to.

    #677992 Reply

    Yeah, I think it may be safer to pay the attorney than send them a check. Some parents would use it for its intended purpose, while others might not. If you have the means, great! Have the invoice sent to you.

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