You can quit a volunteer commitment or drop an intensive hobby if it takes up too much time and interferes with your goals. When it comes to caring for aging parents, though, most adult children are willing to make sacrifices. But do you know what sacrifices you might need to make over the coming years? And have you done enough to prepare for what might come next?
Caring for Aging Parents: Factors to Consider
There’s a big difference between inviting your healthy mom to come live with you and becoming the full-time solo caretaker for a parent with dementia. So certainly, there’s a huge range of possibilities for what caring for your aging parents will look like, and what challenges will come up.
A lot of those challenges are out of your control. You do have some control over how things play out financially, so some of the elements to think about include:
• How your parents will afford necessary care. If your aging parents need home health aides, nursing-home care or hospice at some point, how will they pay for it? This is one of the biggest questions that you have to answer, and potentially one of the toughest because it means your parents have to be willing to share their financial picture with you. Ideally, you’ll sit down and go over their finances together, including recent tax returns and any account paperwork they have. Then, with the help of an estate planning attorney, you can review all the available options, such as qualifying for Medicaid services.
• Your parents’ estate plans. As your parents get older, you can’t afford to avoid estate planning conversations. It’s essential to make sure their estate plans are in order while they’re lucid and can make their own decisions. Go over your parents’ estate planning documents with them to make sure that those documents accurately reflect their end-of-life wishes. If you’re their primary caretaker, make sure each parent has a valid health care proxy and durable power of attorney giving you permission to make medical and financial decisions on their behalf. Do they have current wills? Have they shared their funeral and burial wishes? Do they need to establish any trusts for asset protection? Again, an estate planning attorney’s input could be helpful here to make sure that everything’s in place.
• Your own retirement plans. If you’ve already done some retirement planning, you may already have a timeline in mind for when you’ll stop working and when you’ll start drawing on various retirement accounts. Is it possible that caring for your aging parents will throw a wrench in those plans? Will you have to make a job change in order to be with them? Will you spend your own savings on a parent’s care and have to work longer than expected to recoup those losses? It could be time to rethink your timeline and adjust your expectations.
• How you’ll protect your own savings. Even if your parents have the financial means to pay for their own medical care, your own finances could suffer while you care for them. Little things like paying their utility bills, buying their groceries and covering their co-pays can add up to thousands of dollars a year. Have you established a budget for expenses related to your parents? Will you have to create boundaries around how much you can afford to contribute?
Resources That May Help
Caring for aging parents can be isolating. As their child, it’s your responsibility to manage a lot of their needs, but not everything is on you alone. There may be free or low-cost senior services in your area that can provide your parents with resources, or senior day programs they can attend while you work. Teaming with a financial advisor or estate planning attorney to get Medicaid (MassHealth in Massachusetts) coverage may also allow you to hire in-home help as additional support.
Technology can make certain things easier. If you’re worried about their safety at home, you can set up security cameras in your parents’ home that connect to an app on your phone. Check the cameras throughout the day to make sure everyone’s safe. Other apps let you do things like manage medication and coordinate schedules of multiple caregivers, perfect if you and your siblings are working together to care for your parents.
One of the positives about caring for your aging parents is that it forces you to consider your own plans for the future. Are your own estate plans and financial plans in good shape? Are there challenges around caring for them that you want to spare your own children from experiencing? Good planning can’t eliminate all of those challenges, but it can certainly lighten the financial load at a difficult time. Sachetta, LLC can help you prepare for whatever comes next for you and your aging parents. While they lean on you for support, let’s make sure your own support is firmly in place. Contact Sachetta for all your financial planning and estate planning needs.