In working with our clients, we discovered that many are beginning to face the realities of caring for an aging parent. Some know what to expect, but most do not. For many, this is uncharted territory that leaves them overwhelmed. That’s why we put together our comprehensive guide, Caring for an Aging Parent. It contains resources and advice on the financial impact of caregiving.

You can view the guide here or download it to read at your convenience.

I’d like to highlight a few key areas that will help make the transition to this life stage as seamless as possible, both for you and your parents.

Family Leadership

You parents have been the leaders of your family for some time now. But the time has come for someone else in the family to take the lead. Perhaps that person is you. The time is now to speak with your parent or parents about what values are important to them and how they envision their future as they age.

You won’t know what your parents want for their future unless you ask. You aren’t a mind reader, so talk to your parents about where they see themselves living, what they want their legacy to be, and how they want you to carry it out.

Discuss their financial and personal plans as soon as practical. Don’t wait to talk to your parents. As people age, their cognitive function may deteriorate. Waiting to talk to your parents may complicate this task.

Consider how you want your life to be when you are older. Talking with your parents about their future will get you thinking about your own. Write down your wishes for your children to have in the future.

Ask your wealth management advisor for help. Your wealth management advisor can assist in fulfilling your parents’ (and your) wishes.

Lifestyle Plan

You will need to work together with your parents to determine where they will live, how their money will be handled and their health care wishes. Discuss what their long-term care plan is and find out how they intend to fund it.

Vet nursing homes or assisted living facilities to make sure they are the right fit. Ask friends and colleagues for recommendations. We also have tips for choosing the right nursing home.

Prep your home if your parent is moving in. Make sure your home has been fitted with safety features they may need, such as grab bars in the bathroom or wider doorways for wheelchair access.

Evaluate your parent’s finances to determine how to pay for care. Many people wrongly assume they won’t need long-term care and don’t plan for it. Work with your wealth management advisor to ensure they will have the funds available to pay for their care.

Family Financial Responsibilities

When you parents are no longer in a position to manage their own finances, they will likely look to a child to help them.

Take over your parents’ finances. Be prepared to go over all accounts and investments. You want to make sure their money is accounted for and in the right investments. Make sure your name is on all bank accounts, too.

Sign up to be the representative payee for your parent’s Social Security benefits. The program allows you, as a designated, approved second-party, to receive and manage monthly Social Security benefits on your parent’s behalf. This is very important if your parent suffers from dementia or other cognitive impairment.

Reach out to your trusted wealth management advisor. Your advisor can help you manage your parents’ accounts and preserve their financial legacy.

You can find more resources and tips in our Caring for an Aging Parent guide. Do not feel as though you must make all these important financial decisions by yourself. Contact one of our advisors today if you’d like to talk about forming a plan for caring for your parent or parents as they age.

Nick Giacoumakis is president and founder of New England Investment and Retirement Group.