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Talking care with parents

According to Statistics Canada, seniors are the fastest-growing age group in the Canadian population. Given longer life expectancies, many of us will have to care for an aging parent at some point, and providing and paying for that care can be a real concern. In fact, a recent survey found that nearly two-thirds of Canadians don’t know how they’ll manage the care and finances of their aging parents.

To prepare for any eventuality, consider gathering family members together to talk about living situations and levels of care that will meet everyone’s needs, as well as how to handle and finance that care. It may be an uncomfortable topic to discuss, but planning in advance can help avoid misunderstandings later. Here are some suggestions to get the conversation started.

Involve family members from the beginning

It’s a good idea to include siblings and other family members in the conversation right from the start. Have open and regular discussions on how to manage costs associated with parents’ care, and designate responsibilities. This way everyone has the chance to speak their mind and contribute to decision making.

Find out what your parents think

Ask your parents what they want and where they want to live, and discuss what types of care may be needed.

If they want to stay in their own home, can they afford and maintain it themselves? Will it need accessibility alterations (ramp, hand railings, etc.)? Consider including an independent third party in the conversation, such as a personal care worker or an advisor, to help everyone understand the practical, financial and emotional aspects of elder care.

Get familiar with your parents’ finances

Your parents have been managing their own money for many years, so this can be a sensitive topic. There may come a time, however, when it’s necessary to learn about your parents’ finances and help them get organized, so if and when it makes sense, offer your help to work with their advisor to do what’s best for their financial needs. You’ll also want to find out if your parents’ will and/or estate plan is up to date. Do they have a power of attorney (referred to as a health care directive in some provinces) outlining their wishes for medical treatment, or a power of attorney for property authorizing someone to act on their behalf regarding their financial affairs?

Although it can be an uncomfortable topic to discuss, many of us will eventually have to manage the care and finances of elderly parents. With this in mind, the earlier you start the conversation, the better prepared your family can be. By taking advantage of various resources and including an advisor in the conversation, you can help ensure that your parents will receive the best care they can get if and when the time comes.

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