Dad’s aging, now what?
It’s hard for men to see their fathers age, although the alternative is worse. Dad doesn’t want your help with anything. He can still take care of his finances, drive his own car, and make repairs to the house. But sooner or later, whether he wants to admit it, he will need your help. Aging dads fall into two categories: Those who accept aging and those who refuse to give up any kind of control. How can you help, when it becomes clear that Dad needs you, and the roles of parent and child begin to reverse?
Dads who are able to accept your help may still be a little cautious. Your first discussions need to be about what, if any, estate planning he’s done. He may say it’s not time yet to talk about these matters. One father said he’d cross that bridge when he gets to it, to which his child replied “Dad, you’re already on that bridge.” A light touch of humor will help you both.
Start by asking if Dad has met with an estate planning attorney to have a Will, a Power of Attorney, an Advance Health Care Directive, and a HIPAA Authorization created. If not, then explain what you have done for your own family and explain why it’s important for you as a father, and for him as a grandfather, to take care of this. Ask if he’d like you to introduce him to your estate planning attorney or if you have any family members who he would be comfortable
asking for recommendations.
Some fathers will be willing to have their adult sons go with them to meet with an estate planning attorney. Others will prefer to keep it a private meeting. Either way is fine, as long as a plan is in place. Respect your father’s choice but do keep the attorney’s contact information.
Talking about planning for incapacity is harder for some people than talking about death. The conversation may have already occurred if Dad has had health issues, but if he’s healthy as a horse, he may push back on this one. It still needs to be discussed.
What resources are available if needed for long-term care? If Dad owns a long-term care insurance policy, find out where it is so you can access it if and when the time comes. Does Dad’s estate plan include a Medi-Cal Asset Protection Trust (MAPT) or has any Medi-Cal planning been done?
You’ll also want to talk with Dad about providing information for financial, legal, and medical contacts. This can be a little overwhelming, so it may help to break this into a series of categories. I recommend setting a deadline for one checklist a week. This is the contact information you’ll want to gather:
Legal and Financial
Estate Planning Attorney
Checking and Savings
Insurance Policies – Home, Auto, Umbrella
Primary Care Physician
Any other health care providers
Medicare or Health Insurance Company
Mortgage or Rent
Auto Loan or Lease Payments
House of Worship
These are not easy conversations for many adults, so be patient with your father. It may take a while for even the most easy-going men to become comfortable with sharing this kind of information and disclosing their financial picture.
What about the father who refuses to have these conversations and has done no planning? This is a very hard situation for a loving son who wants what’s best for his father. As long as Dad is competent, you can’t force him to have an estate plan created or to tell you how his bills are paid or what kind of funeral he wants.
If your father shows sign of incapacity, then it may be time to begin the process of petitioning the probate court so you or another family member may be named his conservator. Common signs are Dad’s failure to maintain basic hygiene, failure to eat, not going to necessary doctor appointments, being unable to manage financial affairs, and the like. An estate planning attorney will be needed to petition the court for conservatorship. This is a long and challenging process but may be necessary.
When conservatorship is awarded, you’ll be able to make major decisions on behalf of your father concerning his housing, financial matters, and caregivers. He may not like your decisions, so consider bringing a geriatric social worker onto the team to help your father, you, and other family members resolve his needs. Professionals who specialize in geriatric care are familiar with this kind of situation and can help as you and your father navigate through this challenging part of life. These conversations might not be easy, but they are necessary. Book a call with Rod Hatley today for more information on how you can best help your dad prepare for the challenges ahead. He might not be thrilled at first, but he will be grateful one day.