An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress
– WB Yeats, Sailing to Byzantium
I have worked with a number of clients over the years that, at some point, had to assist an aging parent. The assistance has taken many forms – helping organize finances, providing input on an assisted living decision or moving, and myriad other issues. Much of the time, caring for aging parents is well received, but occasionally this isn’t the case. Your parent may not believe that he or she needs assistance or may not agree with what you or perhaps the entire family is recommending.
Such a reaction is understandable, because we typically step in to help our parents due to a deterioration in their financial, physical or mental capability. Accepting that this has happened can be difficult, but if you find yourself in this situation, what can you do? First, in caring for aging parents, if the situation isn’t time sensitive, be patient. Reality has a way of asserting itself, and over time your parent may come around to the fact that help is needed. If this doesn’t happen, here are a few tactics that might help:
- Work with Existing Advisors – if your parent has existing advisors who can assist with the relevant issues, it may be helpful to bring them into the loop. Ask if your parent would be willing to participate in a meeting including you, your parent and the relevant advisor or advisors to discuss the issue. Bear in mind that physicians, lawyers and financial advisors who accept fiduciary responsibility all have a legal and ethical responsibility to act in the best interest of their clients.
- Bring in an Outside Advisor – if your parent isn’t already working with an outside advisor and it is financially feasible to do so, bringing one in might be helpful. At a minimum, the advisor could assess the situation and provide feedback on what is needed. Further, assuming your parent is willing to meet with the advisor, hearing the recommendations come from the advisor might make the difference as the advisor is both an authority and a neutral third party who ideally has a good deal of expertise in dealing with such situations.
- Revisiting the Issue– if outside advisors aren’t an option, or if you feel you are better equipped to work with your parent on your own, this article from Kathleen Burns Kingsbury offers some helpful pointers. Although it is focused on helping a parent with financial issues, much of the advice could be useful in dealing with health and long term care issues as well.
When we face caring for aging parents, it can be tough for the parent to accept advice or help from a child even if it is urgently needed. If you find yourself in this situation with your parent, take stock of the resources available to you and plan your approach and you’ll have a greater likelihood of getting your parent to take whatever steps are in his or her best interest.
Minerva Planning Group is a fee-only financial planner firm located in Decatur. For more information, contact us here.