I wrote a few months ago about my father-in-law’s passing. But beyond saying he was missed, I didn’t really share some of the things Mr. Bartender and I learned or challenges we experienced along the way. And I really wanted to do that.
Taking care of your parents isn’t a new concept. The term “sandwich generation” has been around for years. And despite our best efforts to leave personal matters at the door when we come to work…it’s challenging. When someone you love and care about is sick or dying, it’s virtually impossible to stop thinking about it.
AARP recently published a report on caregiving in the U.S. While it only makes sense that taking care of a parent has an impact on work, I didn’t realize how much. The report states that 66% of family caregivers with jobs have arrived late, left early, or taken time off during the day for caregiving issues. So let’s face it, caregiving impacts work.
In our situation, Mr. B and I were fortunate that Dad was a planner. Seriously, I mean a planner. But even the best planners miss a few details. Here are some things we learned along the way that you might want to consider for yourself and your loved ones.
Know what long-term care options exist. We always figured that Dad would come live with us at some point. Well, Dad had ideas of his own. He wanted to stay in his house. Period. So, we had to figure out what we were going to do to make sure he was cared for. Lucky for us, another family member was in a position to move in and became Dad’s caregiver.
Get appropriate paperwork in order. It goes without saying that having a will is important. But also think about power of attorney, living wills, etc. My auto accident several years ago made me realize the importance of these documents and making sure the individuals entrusted with my care knew where they were and what they said.
Understand estate planning. There are a lot of laws and regulations when it comes to final distribution of a person’s estate. You have probate, estate taxes, federal and state taxes, etc. Regardless of the size of a person’s estate, you want to understand what happens to it and the tax implications.
Plan for virtual assets. In our situation, we knew where all of Dad’s files were and had discussed with him in great length is final wishes. The one thing we didn’t know? The password to his email account. Lucky for us, we only had one email to deal with. But it made us realize that, in our very cyber-connected world, we need to put a plan in place for someone to handle our virtual matters. I just read about three companies, LegacyLocker, MyWebWill and AssetLock, that offer these services.
Build trust. This might sound obvious – they’re a close friend or family member – of course there’s trust. Keep in mind, a time might surface when you have to make decisions regarding finances or medical care for another person. Being named a caregiver, trustee or executor is a huge responsibility. It’s not just about getting certain things done. It’s about having the trust of the person who put you in charge.
I understand it isn’t easy to face the thought of our parents not being with us. Or our own mortality. But by opening up the lines of communication and talking about the future, you can know that final wishes are being handled the way a person wanted. And avoid potential conflict when decisions need to be made.1