Contributed by: Sandra Adams, CFP®
Last month I wrote about using a Care Agreements Document between couples as a way to communicate preferences for future care, in order to help alleviate future stress for the caregiver spouse and to make certain the ill spouse’s wishes for care and for the future quality of life of their caregiver spouse were able to be communicated and honored. The Care Agreements Document can also be used for entire families to plan for the care of a loved one (or loved ones) – usually older adult parents. Let me explain how the agreement might be used in this context.
In the case of families, I find that anxiety and tension arises when (1) They are unclear of their parent’s wishes for their care or (2) there is conflict amongst siblings regarding division of caregiving duties and/or disagreement about the care in general. A Family Care Agreements, especially if drafted with the parents involved in advance of a care need, would clear up both of these major sources of tension. As with the Care Agreements for Couples, the Care Agreements Document for Families is a wonderful way to begin a family conversation about future care for older adult parents; it helps to provide the older adults the opportunity to express their future desires for care and to clear up any misconceptions about their wishes. It allows adult children to hear—from the mouths of their parents—how they wish their children to be involved in their care, how they wish to be cared for and by whom, and where they wish to be cared for (as long as finances support these wishes). As siblings divide the future caregiving duties, keeping in mind those that make most sense based on location, availability and talents, they can keep in mind their parents words, wishes, and resources.
The Care Agreements for Families can also serve as a way to provide protection to the individuals serving in caregiving roles; for example, if future stressful situations during a parent’s care may cause their position to become unpopular. The family will be able to reference the agreement to recall that the agreement to act and serve the parents as caregivers in a particular manner was agreed upon – it can help protect feelings and calm emotions in times of heightened tensions.
Again, I propose that when we are writing all of our other estate planning documents—our Wills, Patient Advocates, and Durable Power of Attorney Documents—that we consider writing a Care Agreements Document with our older adult parents and siblings.
What would this agreement include?
- If our older adult parents get ill and need to be cared for, how do they wish to be cared for?
- How do they want us, as adult children, to be involved in the caregiving?
- Do they want us to provide care or would they prefer to have professional caregivers (if they can afford to have them)?
- Where do they wish to have care provided (home, assisted living, etc.)?
Having a Care Agreements Document amongst family members in advance of an illness does a couple of things:
- It helps family members/adult children make clearer decisions in times of stress if/when the time comes.
- It also helps take away any feelings of guilt or resentment because agreements about the plan have been made in advance; helping to preserve relationships.
A Care Agreements Document, whether for Couples or Families, is something that should be added to your future planning toolkit as you plan ahead for the future aging – for you and for your loved ones. If you have questions about how to get started, feel free to reach out to me to find out how!
Sandra Adams, CFP® is a Partner and Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc. Sandy specializes in Elder Care Financial Planning and is a frequent speaker on related topics. In addition to her frequent contributions to Money Centered, she is regularly quoted in national media publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Research Magazine and Journal of Financial Planning.
This material is being provided for information purposes only and is not a complete description, nor is it a recommendation. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any opinions are those of Sandy Adams and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation.