Caring for ageing parents

Some of us may help provide assistance to our ageing parents or other relatives in the future. That time may bring a range of emotional and physical challenges. Planning ahead may help relieve stress down the track. Here are three suggestions that may make a difference.

Talk about your parents’ future

It may not be an easy discussion, but knowing what your parents want can help later. Ask them about the type of care and living arrangements they want. Find out about the different types of care they can afford. Think through whether you will be able to physically and mentally offer the support they require. This is an important but often overlooked consideration.

It also helps to establish trigger points. Being unable to manage a garden or a dementia diagnosis and clear signs of memory loss may be time to change care arrangements. This process is about helping your parents to state their wishes while they still can. They can also take this information to specialists, such as their financial advisers, accountants and lawyers. Knowing this information can also help you plan ahead if you need to offer financial support.

Setting up a power of attorney and enduring guardianship

You never know what circumstances life may send your parents’ way that mean someone else needs to take care of them or their finances. At some point, some of us might not be able to go to a bank or make an informed decision about our care. Which is why appointing a power of attorney and setting up enduring guardianship documents can be important.

This is a trust relationship, and your relatives should carefully consider the right person to appoint. It’s also important not to leave this until it's too late. It’s difficult for someone suffering from mental deterioration to provide informed consent about changes to their finances. Setting up these documents before problems arise can protect ageing relatives and their families.

Establishing clear records of finances and assets

Finances and assets are a sensitive topic, which could be tough to discuss. This is understandable, but you can still help them plan by encouraging them to set up clear records of what assets or debts they have, as well as contact details for institutions they use along with details about any financial advisers, accountants, lawyers and other specialists with which they have relationships.

Having clear documentation can also help down the track. For example, it can ensure any debts are attended to and avoid unexpected debt collection notices for bills that would have been covered at the repayment time if you’d known about it. Or it can help to identify funds to cover medical expenses or nursing care when needed.

Being prepared can offer you and your relative's confidence about their options for whatever the future brings, even if it feels confronting at first. It can also make difficult times a little less challenging. There is a range of tools offered by state trustees and government websites like MoneySmart to help with budgeting and estate planning. Speaking to financial advisers and lawyers can also help.

Next: Plan for retirement while supporting your parents with theirs

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Things you should know

This information is current as at 1 July 2023. Prepared by BT - Part of Westpac Banking Corporation, ABN 33 007 457 141 AFSL and Australian Financial Services Licence 233714. This information does not constitute financial product advice.