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The good news and bad news about parents aging

The aging process can be hard. Some people face it calmly. Others might be fearful. One thing is certain; aging is inevitable. What is less certain is how we deal with it.

The good news is that this is not new territory. Issues related to getting older have been understood for a long time. Texas attorneys with experience in elder law matters appreciate that concerns generally fall into four main categories; health care; housing; finances and, eventually, distribution of the estate.

A new study by Fidelity Investments suggests there is further good news for older parents. The survey reveals that most adult children of aging parents are ready to care and support their parents when the time comes. The bad news is that there's a good deal of misunderstanding about what form that care and support should take.

The Family & Finance report's conclusions are drawn from a poll of families. The firm surveyed one parent and one child from each family about matters related to the four categories we mentioned earlier. What it shows is that the two sides are often not in sync in expectations about the role children should fill.

For example, in the area of money, 90 percent of parents surveyed said they would hate to become financially dependent on their children. However, only 30 percent of child respondents think that's a problem. Indeed, nearly a quarter of them are planning to provide financial support for their parents.

There's also a big gap in understanding on estate plans. Most parents expect one of their children to serve as executors of their wills, and most expect the oldest child to fill that role. However, 27 percent of the children said they aren't sure who is supposed to take on the job.

Long-term care is another area where a dichotomy of expectation exists. Seventy-five percent of parents said they assumed a child would take on the responsibility, but 40 percent of the children were surprised to learn that.

The main reason for all this misunderstanding is a lack of clear communication. Conversations involving estate plans, wills, anticipating long-term care and retirement financing too often don't happen. Many times, even if documented plans exist, children don't know where they are.

It may be hard to decide when to hold the discussions, but what is clear is that it's important to have them and the sooner the better.

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