For many people in the middle years of life, the prospect of parents getting older and being less able to do as much for themselves is scary.  And when there is a life changing health diagnosis or other health event and suddenly that time is much closer, people experience many emotions and a slew of questions are often raised.  Questions are often wide ranging – how can I best help my parent or other family member?  Does this mean a change in living situation?  How much time do we have?  What can we do now to prepare for what we can expect to happen?  What are the financial considerations?

My own experience with this subject began when my dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s when he was in his early 70s.  We soon realized that the trajectory of his life had changed, as Parkinson’s is a progressive and degenerative disease with no cure, and with treatment aimed mostly at providing some relief from symptoms.  Once the initial shock of the diagnosis lessened, my dad resolved that one of his highest priorities was to get his financial and legal affairs in order, and he asked me to help him.

Over the next several months we set out on a planning journey, and Dad structured his affairs in a way that considered his current health and how it was likely to change over time.  Our planning yielded a  financial care plan, which outlined how Dad’s day to day financial affairs, such bill paying and money management, would be handled when he could no longer manage these tasks himself.  The plan also addressed bigger picture considerations such as investment management, estate planning, and risk management/insurance.  We also developed a financial plan that addressed how to handle Dad’s health care and long-term care costs in the context of his overall financial picture, as these costs would likely be much higher now with the Parkinson’s diagnosis.

The result of our planning, and the implementation of the action steps identified, brought some measure of peace of mind and confidence that we were doing what we could to prepare for an ever- changing situation.  We couldn’t change the course of the disease, but at least we could plan for how to navigate through the many changes to come in Dad’s life.

The months and years that followed were often very difficult as Dad’s health declined.  He accepted what was happening to him, but at the same time pushed back against it and handled his situation with grace and humility until the end.  I am so grateful for having had the opportunity to help him in his time of need.

I am also grateful for this incredible real-life learning experience that has provided me with an opportunity to build on what I have learned and help others who are facing, or who may face similar situations.  Over time, I have been able to channel the deep and strong emotions I experienced through this journey into inspiration to help others.  So now I have found myself on a mission to work in this space, doing what I can to help people prepare to navigate through similarly choppy waters.  I am finding this work to be extraordinarily rewarding and meaningful.