Have you been able to take the time to reflect on being with your family during the holidays, now that the New Year is here? Like many others, did you spend most of your time with your family during the holidays? Were you able to speak and spend time with your aging parents?

While visiting with your parents, did you discuss the future? In addition, while you were together, did you notice any physical or mental issues or impairments that were not there last year? Did your parents share with you any new diagnoses or changes to their medications? Did you or your aging parents discuss long-term care planning?

For many of us, the answer to the questions in the previous paragraph is no. We may have noticed specific issues during the holidays but chose not to tackle them at that time. Instead, for most of us the holidays were a time for being together, celebrating, and observation. Now that the New Year is here, however, we can reflect on the fact that there may be key long-term care questions that need to be answered. We would like to share five questions that we frequently are asked by our clients and their loved ones here on our blog.

1. Did you find out if your parents have completed any long-term care planning? If you do not know, this broad question will elicit information about whether your loved ones have taken any steps to plan for their long-term care. They may even have a complete plan already in place. On the other hand, they may have done zero long-term care planning. Or in the alternative, they may have started long-term care planning years ago but the plan may need to be updated.

2. Have your parents made any selections about who should make medical decisions for them? We realize this is not a subject that makes for a happy holiday dinner conversation, but it is best for you to know their wishes and to be prepared. If your aging parents become suddenly incapacitated, is there a family member or close friend, who understands their wishes regarding medical care? Do they trust him or her to make medical decisions in line with their wishes? Most importantly, if there is, have they completed their estate plan to give legal authority to this person to act?

3. In addition to a trusted person to make medical decisions if your parents become incapacitated, who do they want to handle their finances? This trusted person would have the authority from them to pay their bills or hire a caregiver.

4. Have you spoken at all to your aging parents about whether they would prefer to stay in their home or are they interested in assisted living? No one truly wants to live in a nursing home should their long-term care needs become so severe that they cannot care for themselves. The important thing is to talk about what they want now, so you can create a plan that allows them to live the way they want to as they age. Some people want to remain in their home at all costs, while others may become afraid and prefer to live in an environment where assistance is available. If your parents want to remain in their home, it may be necessary to make safety modifications or arrange for a caregiver. If they prefer assisted living, facilities should be visited and a plan for covering the cost discussed.

5. Do your parents have any idea how they would pay for a nursing home if it were to become necessary? The discussion about how to pay for a nursing home is often one of the most difficult, but statistics alone indicate more than half of all senior Americans will eventually require nursing home care and the cost can be devastating. You need to help your parents understand that they may need to purchase long-term care insurance or create a trust for asset protection, which may allow them to qualify for Medicaid. This could prevent them from losing their life savings to the cost of nursing home care.

As the New Year begins, we encourage you to have conversations with your aging parents surrounding the questions listed above. These questions will provide a great starting point to assist your loved ones in creating a solid estate plan to meet their future needs

Our office can assist with the planning necessary to achieve their goals. While it may feel like an uncomfortable topic to broach, in the long run, helping loved ones plan for the future is critical. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with attorney Alan Hougum today.