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Avoiding conflict in caring for a declining parent

Transitioning to a position of more dependency on children can be a difficult thing for parents, especially those who pride themselves on their independence. The transition can be difficult not only on a personal level, but also on a family as a whole, particularly when there are disagreements about how to handle the transition as a family.

Of course, it is important to get all the necessary documents in place for an aging parent. This includes a will, a health-care directive, power of attorney, trusts and other estate planning documents. But beyond these particulars, it is important to work on relationships within the family. 

Communication, of course, is critical in getting through any family challenges, and the transition of a parent to being dependent is no different. But knowing the right time to talk can make things easier. There is no specific age or time that the best to begin discussing the issue. It really depends on a number of factors, including physical and mental health, the amount of wealth involved, and how complex the estate plan will be, among other things.

In speaking about how to handle a declining parent’s affairs, it is important for children to remember that it is a privilege, not a punishment. Viewing it as a burden, or an opportunity to get something for oneself, is sure to create problems. As far as which siblings take on which responsibilities, it depends on what skills, strengths and sensitivities each brings to the table.

Whatever specific strategies are used to manage assets for an aging parent, it is important that the process get started sooner rather than later and that everything stays up-to-date. This will ensure that planning is done carefully and that pitfalls and mistakes are avoided. 

Source: CNBC.com, “When Adult Children Become Financial Caregivers,” Doug Cubberley, June 3, 2013.