Pay close attention to your aging parents on a holiday visit this year.

Does the normally tidy house now seem neglected? Is there
hoarding? Do you notice memory problems, confusion or physical unsteadiness?

Discovering that a parent's physical or mental health is
declining can be heavy on the heart. It also can be hard on your finances,
states the Wall
Street Journal.

"The first thing is don't panic. "Come up with
a plan."

Feeling overwhelmed may prompt you to spend money on the
wrong things, such as full-time care, when your parent just needs delivered
meals or someone to run errands a few times a week. Here are some tips:

1. Assess needs

Ask your parent's physician what his or her physical and
mental deficits are—assuming your parent allows you to sit in on appointments
or consents to the release of his or her medical records. You can always send written
concerns to the doctor, and if you have power of attorney for a parent's health
care, attach a copy of that document,.

2. Take stock of benefits.

Visit BenefitsCheckUp.org, a site run by the National
Council on Aging, to find out what benefits, discounts and programs your parent
may be eligible for.

A search for a Medicare beneficiary who owns her Arizona
home and has three chronic medical conditions turned up 11 programs, including
a discount drug program, free legal assistance and caregiver respite.

Your local Area Agency on Aging (www.n4a.org) offers
information on in-home support, transportation, adult day care, skilled nursing
facilities and senior nutrition programs.

Is your parent a veteran or the widow or spouse of one?
Eldercare.gov, a government-sponsored site (1-800-677-1116), can direct you to
your local veterans' resource center for help applying for benefits, among
other services. If your parent is low-income, he or she doesn't have to be on
Social Security's Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program to be eligible for
in-home supportive services, Ms. Fodrini-Johnson says.

And don't forget your benefits. Some employers offer
elder-care referral services or cover need assessments for a parent.

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