Like many long-distance relationships, caring for an aging family member from another city or state can be financially and emotionally challenging. But the benefits of keeping mom and dad in their own familiar community can outweigh the drawbacks of living miles apart. Here are some strategies to help them enjoy their lives where they are and to have a good handle on their care even if you don’t live nearby.
Household financial care giving
As your relative gets older, routine household financial tasks can become overwhelming and difficult to manage. Here are some ways to offer a helping-hand:
- Arrange for expenses to be paid automatically. Take the chore out of monthly bills by setting up direct payment for heat, telephone, water and other utilities. Insurance premiums can also be paid automatically, including payments for life, health and car insurance. Or, if your parents authorize, they can send their bills to you and you can pay them online.
- Set up direct deposit for their income. Plan for pension and Social Security checks to go directly into their bank account. This provides security and saves a trip to the bank.
- Collect personal and financial information. You will need this to solve problems with a bill, for example, or to assist with a banking matter. Write down their date of birth, Social Security number and health insurance information. In addition, the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) recommends that you have the following information on hand before a crisis occurs: Medicare or Medicaid numbers, lists of any medications they are taking and names, addresses and phone numbers of doctors, hospitals and clinics involved in their medical care. You will also need copies of their living will and power of attorney document.
- Prepare a durable power of attorney for finances. If your relatives require more hands-on help from you, such as giving you access to their accounts, they will need to authorize it by completing this form. A power of attorney gives another person legal authority to act on someone’s behalf, which includes paying bills, depositing checks, watching investments and handling forms for insurance and benefits.
The authorized person does not need to be an attorney – it can be you, or another trusted individual. Your elder relatives also decide when the power of attorney will take effect: It can be immediate, for example, or only if they become incapacitated.
Consider hiring professional help
If your parents are not ready to turn over their finances to you, help them hire a professional. A qualified financial advisor can help monitor their investments, keep track of their retirement accounts and manage their pension and Social Security income. A financial advisor also can assist with questions about their wills, trusts and insurance needs. You can help them select an advisor – just plan to do this when you are visiting. Participating in the selection of a financial advisor provides you the added benefit of knowing this professional and being able to easily keep in contact should the need arise. The Atlanta based Wealth Management Team of Benedetti, Gucer & Associates can be a valuable asset in this regard. They are fee-based, fiduciary advisors who have decades of experience working with inter-generational clients.
Identify a support network
Your parent’s financial advisor can be one person in their support network, and AARP suggests that you compile a complete list of family, friends, clergy and others who you can call to help. Introduce yourself and get phone numbers when you visit. If you can’t reach your parent, calling someone from the support list can put you at ease.
Offer additional help in a respectful manner. If mom and dad can’t make it to the supermarket, locate a local grocery delivery service and set up an account. If driving is no longer possible, set up taxi service so they can leave the house. If you would like to learn about Meals on Wheels or other programs, use the Eldercare Locator, a service of the U.S. Administration on Aging, at eldercare.gov. Some families also hire a geriatric care manager, a professional specializing in helping elderly adults with long-term care.
Costs of long-distance care
Long-distance caring comes with a price tag – primarily for travel costs and assistance with a relative’s household expenses. But traveling is well worth the investment, say eldercare experts at the University of California Santa Barbara. Visits give you the opportunity to connect with your parent, assess their financial and other needs and provide respite for a primary caregiver.
Long-distance caring can have consequences for your own finances. Talk to your parents, siblings and other relatives about the costs and ask for their help if they are able. Consider working with a qualified financial planner, who can advise you about helping your loved ones while protecting your own savings and retirement.
“Durable Power of Attorney,” 1996 by Nolo Press – http://www.nolo.com.
The views expressed represent the opinions of Benedetti, Gucer & Associates and are subject to change. These views are not intended as a forecast, a guarantee of future results, investment recommendation, or an offer to buy or sell any securities. The information provided is of a general nature and should not be construed as investment advice or to provide any investment, tax, financial or legal advice or service to any person.
Additional information, including management fees and expenses, is provided on Benedetti, Gucer & Associates’ Form ADV Part 2, which is available upon request.
The use of the term “RIA” does not imply a certain level of skill or training.
Author: Brittany F.