Come Together: Agreeing on an Eldercare Plan for a Loved One

According to the 2020 U.S. Census, 54 million Americans are over the age of 65 and that number will rise to 74 million by 2030. Elderly individuals — generally, those over 85 years — are growing at an even faster rate. These demographic realities put pressure on families to think about and plan how they'll care for elders if they can no longer care for themselves. Here's an overview for creating and executing an eldercare plan.

Gather Family Members

Convene a family meeting to discuss the care of older family members. Be sure to invite all of the adult children of the elderly relative and their spouses. Depending on your family, the invitation list may include others, such as elders' siblings, grandchildren and even close friends.

elderly father posing with his adult son

Be forewarned that some family members might not agree with the need for a meeting. Furthermore, it may not be easy to find time for everyone to meet. Location may be a factor, too, with many families spread out across the country. Nevertheless, it's important to bring as many participants into the loop as possible. Fortunately, technology can provide additional flexibility. If everyone can't meet in person, a teleconference may be sufficient — or at least better than nothing.

Should you have a professional advisor attend the meeting? That may depend on your financial resources and whether you want to formalize some decisions. Don't overlook or ignore a third-party caretaker (such as a nurse or home aide) who might be able to contribute valuable health care-related insights. Also, think about whether you want to include the elderly relative. This, of course, can be a delicate decision. Determine what's best for your family's particular situation.

No Perfect Solution

A family meeting enables you to share information and allows others to air their concerns. In some cases, one or more members may feel that they're being asked to do too much caretaking, while others might profess to want to do more. In any event, remember that there's no perfect solution.

Naturally, you'll want to discuss matters relating to your loved one's health care. This could result in a decision to have the person move to an assisted living facility or to upgrade current living arrangements. You might keep the person at home and use live-in or visiting care providers if the situation warrants. Or a family member may volunteer to assume the role of caregiver in his or her home.

Emotions and Rationality

Such decisions often are wrought with emotion, even as they require a rational analysis of personal preferences, priorities and costs. So don't expect to finalize everything in a single family meeting. But be sure you discuss and make decisions about:

Legal documents. This includes a power of attorney (POA), living will and other health care directives, as well as the use of trusts. In addition, the elderly relative's will may have to be revised. Some of the main objectives may be preservation of assets and minimizing federal and state tax liabilities.

Daily financial affairs. One family member is generally chosen to handle the loved one's financial affairs. This person can usually write checks and draw on the elderly relative's bank and retirement accounts through a POA.

A "plan B": Your family will need to be flexible as the situation changes. Develop an alternative plan in case the assisted living facility or other living arrangement you've chosen doesn't work out or the elderly person's condition suddenly worsens.

In the Event of Conflict

If, like many families, yours has experienced conflict or disharmony between members, try to come together on this issue for the good of your elderly relative. If you encounter or anticipate disagreement or an unwillingness to compromise, you might include your financial advisor or another neutral third party, such as your faith leader, in the discussion. Contact your financial advisor for help.

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