When Aging Parents Need Care
It’s the ultimate role reversal—your parents once took care of you; now as they grow older, you may find yourself taking care of them. This scenario is growing more common in the United States, where nearly 30% of the population cares for an aging relative. While this can be incredibly rewarding, it can also be emotionally and financially draining. Here are a few strategies that can help.
Get the big picture
To see how much care your aging parent needs, keep a journal of all the things you (and others) are doing for them. Is help needed during the day? At night? Is constant supervision needed? After a few days, you’ll have a clear idea of what your parent needs help with and at what times of day. Then you can decide how much of that help you can realistically provide.
This is also the time to find out what financial resources your aging parents have in place for future health care and other challenges. Learn where these assets are held and make sure you can easily access them down the road should the need arise.
Set up a support network
Caring for an elderly parent is a compassionate—but exhausting—task. You’ll want to recruit as much help as you can find, whether it means hiring in-home help or asking family members to pitch in. Here are a few affordable ways to lighten your load:
Find a volunteer senior companion in your area
The U.S. government has a nationwide program called Senior Companions, which recruits volunteers to give friendship and assistance to seniors who have difficulty with daily living tasks. To learn more, visit www.NationalService.gov or call 1-800-833-3722.
Enroll your parent in an adult day program
These programs give older adults a chance to get out of the house and socialize with other seniors; they also give caregivers much-needed breaks. Adult day programs are typically far less expensive than hiring a full-time caregiver or moving your parent into assisted living. Plus, financial help may be available through Medicaid, state assistance programs or long-term care insurance. To find one for your parent, visit the National Adult Day Service Association’s state association directory or Adult Day Services of Oregon.
Automate as much as you can
The less you have on your plate, the better—so use the power of the internet to automate everything from prescription refills to online banking and bill pay.
Hire a geriatric care manager
These life care experts can act as consultants to guide you, or they can manage all aspects of caring for your parent. Some insurance companies are starting to offer this service; check your parents’ plan to find out.
Look to insurance
Long-term care insurance policies are designed to cover costs that occur when your parents can no longer handle day-to-day tasks like bathing or dressing. Money can be used for nursing home care, assisted living or in-home care. Visit the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance for information on various policies.
The older the policyholder, the more expensive the policy, so encourage your parents to get a policy sooner rather than later. If they can’t afford it, you might consider splitting the cost with your siblings, since it may be less expensive than paying for care later on.
Explore ways to keep working
Quitting a job to care for an elderly parent can seem like the simplest solution, but the long-term impact can be costly. Leaving the workforce means not only losing your paycheck, you also lose out on benefits like health insurance or a 401(k) plan. Periodic absences can also significantly slice into your Social Security benefits, which are calculated on 35 years of earning.
Instead of quitting altogether, talk to your company’s HR department about scaling back your hours or working remotely. You can also consult Eldercare Locator to find local services that can help you balance your job with your caregiving responsibilities.
Share the load
Typically, physical caregiving of an aging parent falls to one adult child, while siblings may offer financial support. If you’re the one providing hands-on assistance, it’s natural to reach for your wallet to cover smaller items like a new cane for dad or your mom’s prescription refill. However, those miscellaneous expenses can add up quickly—and seriously eat into your own nest egg.
Instead of shouldering a larger financial load, work with a financial advisor to create a budget that includes both present and future care needs, as well as a system to record all costs. Then share this budget with siblings and ask them to contribute an equal amount if possible. Not only will this allow everyone to feel more involved with the caregiving plan, it will also reduce the risk of family disputes.
Preparing for the end
It’s never easy to discuss death and dying with your folks—but talking about end-of-life issues will help you respect their wishes when they’re gone. Find out if your parents have a will in place. If they don’t, encourage them to have one drawn up. You’ll also want to discuss advanced healthcare directives and power of attorney. This designation gives you the ability to make medical, legal and financial decisions for your parents in the event that they are unable to do so themselves.
These topics are difficult, but for your parents’ wishes to be honored, they need to have the right paperwork in place. And once you know what your parents want, you can all get back to the process of living—and enjoying the time you have together.
No matter what your family’s future holds, we’re here to help you face it. To help you prepare for life’s money moments, check out our savings options or visit your nearest Umpqua store for personalized advice from one of our banking experts.