Caring for Aging Parents

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As your parents get older, they’ll inevitably begin to face a variety of issues that come with the golden years: planning for retirement, estate planning, living arrangements, long-term care, when to give up driving, and others.  Often it falls to one or more adult children to step in and help.

Below are proactive steps to take to broach these topics with your parents as they begin to face these issues.


1. Start the conversation

This first step is the most important step.  Gently open the lines of communication sooner rather than later so that you can get organized and on the same page before an emergency strikes and difficult decisions need to be made.

Practical advice for these conversations:

  • An easy way to start is to share your own efforts related to your finances, estate planning, or life insurance.

  • Ask about where they see themselves — such as their jobs, location — in the next 5 to 10 years.

  • Keep notes for future reference, particularly about any preferences expressed regarding life stages or end-of-life issues (such as agreeing to stop driving at a certain age or entering an assisted living facility).  This can help avoid blame or resentment down the road when tough decisions need to be made.


2. Help your parents get organized

One of the most helpful steps your parents can take is to get organized and simplify their finances as much as possible.  This means your parents should:

  • Ensure essential documents (such as wills, living wills, health care proxies, powers of attorney) are in place, up to date, and in a secure and known location.

  • Know where all of their accounts are held and consolidate as appropriate.

  • Automate bill payment.

  • Have a big-picture understanding of how much money they make and spend each month.

Simply mentioning these items may be enough for your parents to get organized, or you may need to get directly involved—it all depends on your parent’s ability and your relationship with them.

Other ways to help your parents get organized might include:

  • Document their net worth and budgets in a spreadsheet.

  • Set them up on Mint.

  • Share resources on how to find a financial planner.


3. Move toward more in-depth discussions

 Eventually, move toward more in-depth discussions, with the goal of covering the following:

  • Preferences and expectations for later stages of life.

  • The general state of their finances (e.g., ability to pay essential living expenses, existence of credit card or other debt, ability to continue working and retirement timing).

  • Contact information for important advisors.

  • Whether essential documents (such as wills, living wills, health care proxies, powers of attorney) are in place, and if so:

    (a) their location, and

    (b) what roles have been assigned to you or your siblings (e.g., executor, powers of attorney).

  • What help they might currently need.

Finally, remember that you are not in control of nor responsible for your parents’ financial decisions. Focus on what you can control and the things for which you are responsible.  Beyond that, try not to overthink how life may or may not play out for your parents.


  • NAPFA – A great resource for finding a fee-only financial planner for your parents. XY Planning Network is also great, but the focus is on younger clients so you might have a hard time finding someone with later life planning expertise.

  • Daughterhood – This is an amazing blog and resource about all things related to caring for aging parents.

  • Everplans – Your parents can upload and share important documents and information with you. This is also a way for them to document certain preferences about different life events or stages.