Two years ago, I piloted a program based on materials developed by the National Endowment for Financial Education: What Every Adult Child Should Know. By the end of the 7-week program, participants would have a binder full of information – the location of Wills, Powers of Attorney, Insurance Policy information; Balance Sheets, Spending Plans, Contact information for Doctors, Lists of medications, Property inventory, bank accounts and safe deposit boxes. All things needed to assist with the decisions made for the care for an aging parent.
One elderly gentleman in the class was the primary caregiver for his wife. He had tried to get their children to take the class so they would be better prepared to make decisions on behalf of he and his wife. They refused to come. Half way through the class, he fell and broke his hip and spent a couple of weeks in the hospital. His children became the caregivers for their mother in his absence. His children were lucky, because he had completed his binder. The children were able to step in and provide continuity of care, thanks to the information he had compiled in the binder.
I started to prepare my binder for the day when my children would need to make decisions for my husband and me. I also broached the subject with my dad and his wife but was brushed off – they assured us that they had everything in order: wills, advance directives, a trust. There was nothing to discuss.
On a Friday night in mid-March, I learned that my 80 year old dad, diagnosed with dementia, would be coming to live with me the next afternoon; his wife was no longer interested in being part of his life. By Tuesday, new Power of Attorney forms and Advance Directives for health care were drawn up, naming my brother and me as decision-makers on my dad’s behalf. I wasn’t worried about money; Dad had worked hard his whole life and had more than enough resources to provide for himself and his wife: Long-term care insurance, Pensions, Social Security, Assets.
Getting the Power of Attorney document completed was valuable, but it wasn’t enough to access the resources needed to care for dad. My dad and his wife had put all their assets in a joint trust, and it took a lot of detective work to get access to his share of those assets. It was a challenge to gain even basic income and insurance coverage because we were denied access to some key documents:
- bank accounts
- insurance policies;
- pension documents
- birth certificate
- military discharge papers, which provide access to VA benefits.
We’ve learned a lot in the past couple of months. One of the most important lessons? The binder would have been useful in helping my dad. I mentioned that two years ago I had started to prepare my binder to assist my children when they would need to make decisions on my behalf; however, I never completed the task. I have now renewed my effort to complete my binder. ~Brenda