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How to care for elderly parents and loved ones

As you’re starting to step into more of a caregiver role with your elderly parent or aging loved one, it can be important to understand their affairs and how you can help with things like their physical activity, finances, insurance, health care, and legal matters.  
 
At first, it can seem overwhelming to take on the various tasks, but breaking them down into smaller parts can help you get a handle on everything. Here are some tips, key questions to ask, and documents to gather as you get started. 

Understanding their physical condition

How well do you understand our loved one's current physical health? Coming back to these questions periodically will help you understand declines in their condition and changes in their needs.  
  • How would you describe your loved one's general health? 
  • What prescriptions, supplements, and over-the-counter medications do they take? 
  • Have there been any recent changes or hospitalizations? 
  • What doctors or practitioners do they see and for what concerns or conditions? 
  • How active is your loved one? 
  • Do they exercise? 

Understanding their finances

It isn't always easy to talk about money, and sometimes it's harder to discuss it with a family member. Here's a helpful framework for gathering key information about your loved one's financial situation—which is important so that if they have difficulty managing their own finances, you will have the ability to step in to help. 
 
Income and expenses  
  • What is your loved one's source of income? 
  • How much is it and is it subject to tax? 
  • What are their monthly expenses? Include rent or mortgage, utilities, groceries, health care, insurance premiums, credit cards, and services like cleaning or yard work. 
 Real estate  
  • Does your loved one own any property? 
  • Do you have keys and security codes for any properties? 
  • Do you have the contact info for at least one neighbor? 
  • Do you have access to tax records, homeowners association documents, and deeds? 
  • Do you have contact information for their lender, property management company, security company, utilities, and maintenance services? 
 Insurance  
  • What insurance policies does your loved one have? Typical types include: 
    •  Auto and home 
    • Health (including prescription and Medicare Supplemental) 
    • Life or long-term care 
    • Umbrella 
  • If needed, could you access policy numbers, summary of charges, premium details, account value, customer service numbers, and claim forms? 
 Cash, investments, and taxes  
  • Where does your loved one bank and do you have the account numbers? 
  • Do they have investment or retirement accounts? 
  • Do you have a rough sense of account values? 
  • Who manages the accounts or assets? Who else has access? 
  • Do you know their typical tax obligations and where to find their tax returns? 
  • Who helps prepare their taxes? 
 Financial and estate plans  
  • Does your loved one have a formal financial plan? Who prepared it? 
  • Do they have a will, estate plan, or power of attorney? 
  • Who prepared them and are they up to date? Who has copies and where are they kept? 
  • Are there beneficiaries named and do you know who they are? 

Gathering their important contacts

If you haven't already, it's important to get to know your loved one's team of trusted advisors. Who helps with what? What are their names and contact information? Make sure you know how to get in touch. Important contacts typically include:   
  • Attorney 
  • Insurance agent 
  • Banker, CPA, financial advisor 
  • Doctors, dentist, pharmacy 
  • Friends, neighbors 
  • Service providers 
  • Faith community 

Gathering key health care documents

There are 3 crucial documents related to health care that you should consider gathering for your loved one. A health care proxy, a living will, and HIPAA authorization will allow you to step in as needed and help handle their health care needs and wishes. Here’s how they work.
 
Health care proxy 
A health care proxy grants authority to another person to make medical decisions on a person’s behalf when that person is not able to communicate decisions on their own. The health care proxy ends when the person granting authority revokes it or passes away. 
 
Living will 
A living will allows someone to document their wishes regarding certain kinds of medical treatments, as well as life-prolonging and end-of-life procedures. This document typically takes effect if someone cannot communicate their own health care decisions. 
 
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) authorization 
Heath Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) authorization allows a covered entity (for example, a health care provider) to disclose your protected health information (for example, medical information) with designated representatives. It can be customized to specify the information to be shared if it includes the required elements under HIPAA. 

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This information is general in nature and provided for educational purposes only.

Fidelity does not provide legal or tax advice. The information herein is general in nature and should not be considered legal or tax advice. Consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific situation.

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