According to US Department of Health and Human Services, a person turning 65 today has almost a 70% chance of needing some type of long-term care and support services in their remaining years. As this demographic continues to grow—Minnesota predicts the number of senior residents (65+) will double by 2030— they need to think about how to communicate their financial, health and lifestyle plans to their loved ones.
Marti DeLiema Ph.D.assistant professor in the College of Education and Human Development, shares tips on how older adults can have meaningful conversations with adult family members.
Q When is a good time to talk with the family about the decisions that come with aging?
Professor DeLiema: It’s never too early to start having open conversations about planning for the decisions and major life events that come with aging. Ideally, these conversations should take place around retirement. This is when many people engage in financial planning and decide where they want to live and how they can find meaning and purpose in their lives now that work obligations are behind them. However, many people wait much longer to retire. That’s why I recommend that older people start having open conversations about health, money, and housing whenever they’re reunited with their family and have thought about their personal goals and expectations. for the future. It can feel like there’s never a good time given how busy our lives are, but these aren’t conversations to put off. People need aligned helpers to help them when health, financial and other emergencies arise. Talking to family members about our needs and expectations will help ensure that our wishes are honored. It will also take the guesswork out of our family, giving everyone more peace of mind.
Q What type of financial decisions should be discussed?
Professor DeLiema: First, seniors need to choose and appoint someone to be their surrogate financial decision maker (their financial advocate) so that they are prepared for a time when they cannot manage their money on their own. This person should be someone they trust, someone who acts with integrity and will put the older person’s needs above their own. Once the older person has all their financial and insurance information in order, they can walk through their finances with their prospective financial advisor, explaining their various accounts, income streams, insurance policies, regular bills and financial goals. If the chosen financial lawyer is ever going to step in and help out, it’s important that they have all the information they need to do their job well.
The financial lawyer must also be appointed as an enduring power of attorney (POA) agent. A durable power of attorney is a legal document that a lawyer can draw up. It clarifies what the financial adviser can and cannot do to act on behalf of the senior (the “principal”) in managing their money and property. Financial institutions and state and federal benefit programs require the attorney to have power of attorney to access seniors’ money to pay for care or household expenses, as well as to complete forms to apply for government benefits.
Q What questions should you ask about health?
Professor DeLiema: Similarly, older adults (every adult in fact!) should choose someone they believe can make medical and health decisions for them if they lose their abilities. This person can be the same person or a different person from the financial adviser. Discussions should focus on what it means to have a high quality of life and their goals for medical interventions and treatments for serious illnesses and for end-of-life care. Families should also discuss long-term care plans and goals. Do I want to be cared for at home or live in a caring community? Do I want my adult children to look after me or pay professionals? Now is the time to consider what care the older person can afford and what options are available where they want to live. Like financial conversations, discussions about long-term care, medical treatment preferences, and end-of-life care need to happen early, long before the need for care arises.
Q What are some examples of lifestyle choices people can make as they age?
Professor DeLiema: Life choices are dictated by a person’s resources. Retirees with substantial savings have more flexibility, and therefore more decisions to make. Some people may want to move to be closer to their adult children or move to a warmer climate. Other people have more limited choices. For example, they may have to sell their house to pay for the care they need. All seniors should review their finances and develop a retirement income strategy. They need to make sure they can cover their daily expenses, their emergency expenses, and pursue a life filled with meaningful activities and social engagement.
Q What resources can the University of Minnesota provide to guide these conversations?
Professor DeLiema: My colleagues and I have developed resources to help seniors start conversations with friends and family about future money management. The Thinking Ahead Roadmap is a step-by-step planning guide that walks individuals through developing a personalized money management plan, including getting their finances in order, getting power of attorney and when to transfer financial responsibilities to a trusted person. At the end of this process, the elderly will feel relieved of a huge burden. They will be much more financially protected and more likely to have their needs met by the person(s) they know and trust. Individuals can download the documents free of charge at Thinkingaheadroadmap.org.
About the College of Education and Human Development
The University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) strives to teach, advance research, and engage with the community to increase opportunity for all individuals. As the third-largest college on the Twin Cities campus, CEHD’s research and specialties focus on a range of challenges, including: educational equity, innovations in teaching and learning, child mental health and development, family resilience and healthy aging. Learn more at cehd.umn.edu.
About “Talking… with the U of M”
“Talking…with the U of M” is a resource through which University of Minnesota faculty answer questions about current topics and other topics of general interest. Please feel free to repost this content. If you would like to schedule an interview with the faculty member or would like the University of Minnesota to explore topics for the future “Talking…with the U of M”, please contact University Public Relations at [email protected]