Aging is a part of life, and as a wise woman said to me once, “it ain’t for sissies.” Whether you are the caregiver or the cared-for, decisions that are made about the aging process and the end of life can be mired in unknowns, misinformation, and fear. Recently, we held an event for our clients and their families to confront this frequently thorny topic. While we discussed resources and recommendations around health, housing, legal, and financial considerations, the real goal was to help our families to make thoughtful decisions.
We owe a great deal of thanks to our panelists, who brought their expertise and experience to our clients:
John McNair - Elder Law Attorney, McNair Dallas Law
Laurie Miller - Owner, Apple Care and Companion
Renae Perry, LMSW - Chief Operating Officer, Senior Source
The audience learned about how we can help our aging loved ones from a high level point of view all the way down to tactical and transactional considerations. We will continue to write about this into 2020 and will bring you additional resources, based on your feedback. For now, here are some key takeaways from the event:
- This conversation is hard for everyone. Luckily, some really smart people in Boston started The Conversation Project, which is a resource to help any and all of us to figure out how to talk about life transitions with those that are closest to us. Check it out if you need to open the door to this topic with a loved one and have no idea how.
- There is a disconnect between what your legal documents say and how your financial institution wants to let you use them. While your financial institution (yes, that includes investment companies we recommend) may seem difficult to deal with as a family member, they are doing it for the protection of their client, who is your loved one.
- There is a long-term care ombudsman available to help any resident of a long-term care facility, and to help families to know that their loved one is getting the care they deserve. This is an especially useful and comforting resource for families that are not close enough to be able to visit their family member in a facility.
- Residents of Dallas are fortunate to have Senior Source in our backyard. This nonprofit assists families as they age, protects the elderly in our community, and connects us all with resources. If you don’t know where to start in your research, start here.
- Every single person over the age of 18 needs a Power of Attorney, a document that creates an "Attorney in Fact," who is the person that can act on their behalf. (Parents, think about your college age and adult unmarried children.)
Our industry is developing a greater focus on how families and friends can help their loved ones as they age. Brennan Financial Services has developed a library of resources to assist our clients, including written materials, people, and programs like the ones listed above.
Thanks also to our partner MFS, who helped us to prepare for and present this event. They know what we know, which is that people want to use their money to have the lives they want all the way through life, not just in the heyday of retirement. Attached is "Helping Aging Relatives Get the Care They Need at Home," one of the resources MFS has for families and investors who need guidance with the aging process.
This is a difficult conversation that most people don’t know how to start with their family members. But like other money-related topics, not knowing how to do it doesn’t mean you should avoid doing it. We have very personal and meaningful discussions with our clients, and frequently my last comment is akin to, “Have you talked to your family about this?” Based on my own personal experiences, and experiences our clients have shared with us, I strongly encourage you to find a way to begin these conversations with your family and maybe even your friends, especially if they are still healthy in mind and body.
Thanksgiving is around the corner, which may present just the opportunity you need to start a conversation you’ve never had before. The family member that you want to help and protect may also be wondering how to start the conversation with you, so consider this opportunity a gift. Our firm remains available to help with your next steps.