Estate Planning and Your Elderly Parent

By Teresa Green

After a series of recent estate plans created for elderly parents, I thought this would be a nice time to remind those of us with aging parents of important considerations. Each of these, while not necessarily part of the legal aspect of estate planning, are important part of helping your parents prepare for end-of-life decisions.

How Are We Treating Our Parents?

My father is getting older, and we have not always gotten along. I have to regularly work on being a kinder, more loving child to him. This is especially true the older he gets and as his health needs change. While I am lucky enough to have good examples of how parents are treated, this is not necessarily the norm.

This is true no matter ethnicity or economic status.[1] That is because adult maltreatment has no boundaries. But what is adult maltreatment? It can take the form of physical abuse, verbal abuse, neglect, financial neglect, exploitation, and even, sadly, sexual exploitation.[2] And unfortunately elder abuse has been on the rise in Oklahoma.[3] So what can we do to make sure we are not a statistic or allowing our parent to become a statistic?

  1. Be aware of our parent’s medical, including mental, needs. This includes staying aware of their changing medical needs as they age.

  2. Be aware of the signs of elder abuse. The Oklahoma Department of Human Services released a helpful list of possible signs of abuse including injuries or pain, fear, anxiety, agitation, anger, isolation, contradictory statements, hesitation to talk, hoarding, spoiled food, frequent expensive gifts, and numerous unpaid bills.[4]

  3. Consciously work on your patience as your parent ages. One four-step process to developing patience is to understand what irritates you about your parent, change your attitude toward the discomfort it creates, pay attention when the irritation starts, and use self-talk to adjust your reaction to the irritation.[5]

Is My Parent Losing It?

I am sure we have all had this question about our parents! But in truth how will I know that I should get involved? The Mayo Clinic released a very helpful article that provides guidance on warning signs in our aging parents. Specifically, they recommend considering your parents ability to care for themselves, memory loss—abnormal memory loss not normal aging memory loss, safety in their home (i.e. falling, navigation), safety on the road (i.e. confusion in directions), weight loss, emotional health (i.e. mood), social life, and mobility.[6] If you have concerns in any of these areas, it may be time to talk to your parent. This is likely uncomfortable but an important part of being a good caregiver. Our parents do not want to lose their independence and talking with them helps your parent feel like they have not lost that part of their life.

Estate Planning for Elderly Parents

Once our parents have seen a doctor and it is determined they can no longer care for themselves, I find the adult children of clients are often worried about the financial toll on the child’s personal life. Our office is happy to help you and your parents determine the best estate planning options to minimize the stress on both of you.

Sources

[1] Terminology, Oklahoma Department of Human Services, http://www.okdhs.org/services/aps/pages/terminology.aspx (last visited May 9, 2017).

[2] Id.

[3] Jim Killackey, Elder Abuse is on the Rise in Oklahoma, Officials Say, NewsOK, Jan. 31, 2015 12:00 AM, http://newsok.com/article/5389115

[4] Warning Signs, Oklahoma Department of Human Services, http://www.okdhs.org/services/aps/pages/warning.aspx (last visited May 9, 2017).

[5] Jane Bolton, Four Steps to Developing Patience, Psychology Today (Sep. 20, 2011), https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/your-zesty-self/201109/four-steps-developing-patience

[6] Aging Parents: 8 Warning Signs of Health Problems, Mayo Clinic, Jan. 10, 2015, http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/caregivers/in-depth/aging-parents/art-20044126


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