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What To Do When Home

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When home can no longer be home to parents of boomers, financial planners say the change can embody many of the most wrenching and poignant aspects about life transitions.

And when it occurs, boomers and their planners or their parents’ advisors need to sort out new and old emotions, family conflicts and practical decisions.

The scenario is increasingly common, say many interviewed by National Underwriter, and is likely to become more common as the population continues to age.

According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, in 2010, those age 65 and over will represent 13% of 309 million Americans, and by 2050, that group will comprise 21% of 420 million Americans. In 2000, the 65+ age group was 12.4% of 282.1 million Americans.

National Underwriter will examine 3 aspects of this process: getting organized, dealing with the practical issues, and dealing with the emotional issues tied to a parent’s change in living status.

Some planners say that first-hand experience makes them more empathetic to their clients. Such is the case for Elaine Scoggins, of Scoggins Financial, Tampa, Fla., who says she and her husband lived the experience last year when her mother-in-law could no longer live alone.

An organized approach to help a person move to the next step beyond their home is to start with what will keep the parent as independent as possible. If that step doesn’t work, then you move on to the next one, Scoggins continues.

In her mother-in-law’s case, that meant moving to Tampa, Fla. where Scoggins and her husband live, from Savannah, Ga., where she had lived 40 years. It was agreed that her mother-in-law would begin in an assisted living facility because both Scoggins and her husband worked.

Scoggins says that when her mother-in-law began to need help with paying bills, she and her husband would have her over on Sundays and she would go through bills with them, maintaining her independence. Then, she and her husband would mail the bills, she explains.

Ultimately, Scoggins says, the next step was needed and nursing home care was arranged for the mother-in-law.

Cheryl Hancock, a certified financial planner with Rinehart & Associates, Charlotte, N.C., says decisions on whether to keep parents in a home or whether to move them to a continued care or nursing home facility is best done by discussing them before they become immediate “so that it can be in the form of rational well-thought-out planning where the elderly person can remain in control of their own decisions.”

To help in that process Hancock begins by completing an audit of the person’s current circumstances and lifestyle. This includes evaluating how they are doing today in areas such as getting to appointments and the proximity of hospitals, family and friends, but also what triggers, in the mind of the client, would need to take place to signal a change was needed. It allows a client to remain in control of the situation, she continues.

Hancock says she does it in a non-threatening way, by explaining that it is her policy to discuss the issue with any client on that client’s 65th birthday.

Then, she adds, the family is brought in to discuss the audit and “get buy-in” from family members that these desires will be carried out. The value of this, she explains, is that it gets everyone on the same page and removes pressures on children to make last minute decisions as well as opening up the possibility for estate planning discussions.

The choice the parent and family make is “client specific” but facilitated by quantifying choices and looking at long range costs for both them and any surviving spouse.

Discussing personal family business, such as finances, future living arrangements, and health care can be uncomfortable for boomers and parents, says Julie Bucaro, a certified financial planner with Balasa Dinverno & Foltz LLC, Itasca, Ill. Ideally it is best to address these issues while the parents can still express their wishes, she adds.

Because there is often a gradual deterioration it is possible, and important, to discuss what a parent wants, says George Middleton, a certified financial analyst and financial advisor with Limoges Investment Management PC, Vancouver, Wa. It is better, if the issue comes up to have a period of months and not days to think about what is wanted, he adds.

Bunni Dybnif, director of professional services of LivHome, Inc., a for-profit national geriatric care and placement provider in Los Angeles, says the children usually hire LivHome’s services. Dybnif says she starts the process by listening, and then after, a care plan is created in which the kinds of needs and the options available are evaluated. At this point, a decision can be made on whether a parent should stay in the home or look at options such as assisted living or nursing home care, she continues.

And, finally, she says that after the plan is presented, LivHome can either implement that plan or it can let the children take it and act on it as they see appropriate.