Having the financial conversation

Understanding the financial situation of the person you care for will make you better prepared when potential issues arise. Start the conversation by asking if they have plans in place for unexpected medical costs.

Finances

Managing finances becomes an important aspect of managing our health as we age, or when surgery or a new diagnosis requires us to depend on others for care. Conversations about finances can be stressful for the caregiver and the person receiving care. The most important thing to remember is that the goal is to help the person you’re caring for maintain independence where they can and to include them in the planning as much as possible. Here are some things to remember as you’re navigating these topics. 


Understanding the financial situation of the person you care for will make you better prepared when potential issues arise. Start the conversation by asking if they have plans in place for unexpected medical costs. If they seem stressed by the conversation, ask them about what's most important to them financially. Maybe they like to be able to travel or have weekly dinners out with friends. Show them how taking the time to prepare with a financial plan now can help ensure they’ll be able to maintain what's important to them in the event of an unexpected healthcare bill. 


Next, try to understand the basics about how they pay for medical bills, how they budget for monthly expenses, what type of medical insurance they have, and their typical insurance costs. Talking through the answers to these questions should help to clarify if help is needed:

Can they pay their own bills on time?

If not, sit with them as they pay their bills, use an app to set reminders, or ask if they would like you to manage their bills for them. If that’s the case, it’s wise to establish a Durable Power of Attorney. This legal document allows someone to act for someone else if that person is unable to act on their own behalf.

Do they know how to access their accounts and health insurance resources?

If not, help them to set up bookmarks, apps, or a folder system so they can access and reference these accounts easily. This will also help you get to know their situation and assess whether they need more active support. 

Do they have plans for their end-of-life health care? What are the potential costs associated with these plans?

This may be a hard topic to bring up. It’s emotional and can bring up a lot of fear and anxiety. Have the conversation slowly, and consider involving other trusted family members or friends to support you and the person you’re caring for. You’ll want to cover these documents:

  • Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST)
  • Advance Care Directive
  • Will
  • Durable Power of Attorney
  • Final Arrangements 

Now that you’ve started the conversation, keep it going by following up in areas where support is needed. When they are ready to talk about budgeting, or when you see that finances aren’t being managed well, offer to work with them to set up a budget and organize bill payment. 

Sources:

The growing need for resources to help older adults manage their financial and healthcare choices

Family Caregiver Alliance

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