Monday, December 2, 2013

Taking Care of Aging Parents from a Distance

Sometimes it takes some distance from aging parents to realize how much help they really need.

Many of us have parents and grandparents raised on self-reliance and unwilling to accept help, even when it's painfully obvious in the state of their homes and their health. This may be occurring in your family right now since the holidays are a time for family near and far to gather - or at least check in on each other.

The other week the public radio program Marketplace ran a segment that included a man who tried to manage his parents' finances (and health issues) from afar initially and what it cost him - not just in money but in career advancement. It led to one expert to contribute the following:

There are rules about what we can and cannot tell the children,” said Robert Fross, a partner at Fross & Fross Wealth Management at The Villages, a retirement community in Central Florida.

Mr. Fross says he tries to encourage adult children to meet with him when they visit their parents, particularly if they live far away. He recalled a time when he grew concerned about a woman who was making large and frequent withdrawals from her account without telling him why she needed the money.

“It got to a point where we reached out to her son,” Mr. Fross said. “He jumped on a plane and found out she had given away over $100,000 to a Nigerian scam.”

That was a situation, though, where he was not authorized to talk about the woman’s accounts with her son, so he had to persuade him to come help her without telling him how much money was gone.

The lesson? “If you don’t have an open dialogue with your parents, there aren’t going to be any red flags,” Mr. Fross said. “If you do have an open dialogue, children need to watch basic account valuations.”

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