By Laura Flynn McCarthy
Yes, your parents deserve to have the best. But it's also essential to take steps to manage the overall cost of care, for their sake as well as yours.Ask the Hard Questions
It's important to know what care arrangements your parents might want, how much money they have, where it is, and how you can access it in a crisis, says Dan Taylor, author of The Parent Care Conversation (Penguin). You should also have a list of essential information (keep it in a safe place), like bank account numbers, computer passwords, and names and contact numbers for their lawyer, accountant, financial adviser, and doctors.Arrange Legal Backup
A durable power of attorney gives you or someone your parents choose the ability to make decisions if they can't. There should be one for healthcare and one for legal and financial decisions. Locate a lawyer through the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Inc. at naela.org.Discuss Health Insurance
Most older Americans are covered by Medicare, and some have additional insurance, but both are limited. A long-term care insurance plan can fill in the gaps. For more info, go to the National Council on Aging's benefitscheckup.org and medicare.gov. Those in a low financial bracket may be partially or completely covered by Medicaid. Visit Centers for Medicare & Medicaid services at cms.hhs.gov.Insist on a Living Will
Your parents should appoint someone to decide when to stop life support. The nonprofit organization Aging with Dignity offers single copies of living will forms called "Five Wishes," which are accepted in most states, for $5 each. Go to agingwithdignity.org.
Originally published in the July 2010 issue of Family Circle magazine.