Stretching Your Dollar: Elderly Parents

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When it comes to healthcare, aging and care giving things are literally changing all the time. When you compound that with a baby-boomer generation born to parents who think talking about money is inappropriate, it's proving to be a serious concern for that sandwich generation. That's those who are still taking care of their kids, and now their elderly parents.

"My mom is 80 years old, Betty, and my dad Jack is 82. My dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer's about 4 years ago," Janna Bredeson said.

Bredeson has her hands full. She's taking care of a family of her own, which includes a two-year-old, but she also working really hard to make sure her parents are safe and warm some 400 miles away.

"What can you do to keep them in their home, but also deal with all these health issues, which is very expensive," Bredeson said.

It's even more expensive and stressful if families weren't able to plan ahead, together. So the big talk is imperative, but probably also uncomfortable for everyone.

Some of Bredeson's questions for her parents were: "Where are you at with this bank account and insurance policy?" and "Who do we talk to in terms of a lawyer, and being able to get the information of even their accounts?" and "Why are my children wanting access to all of my accounts and all our policies to see where we're at?"

There are four legal documents you and your parents should have to have when thinking of a financial future:

WILL: This is the best legal way to convey who will deal with all of your possessions according to your wishes. Otherwise the state will decide.

A LIVING WILL: This important document tells doctors what kind of care you do and don't want if you're incapacitated or terminally ill.

DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY FOR HEALTHCARE AND FINANCES: The healthcare version lets you pick who you want to make medical decision for you. The financial version does the same for money decisions.

Bredeson spends a lot of time communicating with her brothers and sister to split up the huge responsibilities.

"My one brother is trying to work with the VA to get different prescriptions covered and Home Health covered. My sister's trying to work with Meals on Wheels to make sure their insurance covers that," Bredeson said.

In retrospect they all wish there would have been a much earlier discussion about long-term care insurance, which would have covered nursing home, at home or assisted living costs that go above Medicare benefits.

"They are just so worried that things are costing money, but they're not really sure how long it's going to take. They've never put pen to paper to say -- this is how much money we have, this is how much it's going to cost... Eventually, we'll have to sell their home to help pay for their care," Bredeson said.

The emotional burden is more than apparent.

"It is incredibly stressful... So, not only are you dealing with a lot of the financial issues, not only are you dealing with what their future is and trying to provide them the best care you can, you're also losing your parents in a sense of the role you traditionally had with them," Bredeson said.

There is a new government long-term care provision in the works with the new healthcare reform legislation. The Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act, or The Class Act, is still on the drawing board and with more specifics not due until October of 2012. Don't bank on it helping if your parents are in need.