The situation can create mixed emotions, and your decision to open your home to a parent or in-law is commendable. Adult children shoulder this responsibility for many reasons — love, respect, a sense of duty, or all the above.
Everybody — not just Mom or Dad — sacrifices some freedom and independence, as tough questions need to be answered: “Who will take care of Mom?” “Can the boys double up so Grandpa can have the back bedroom?” “Is it still possible to take that two-week vacation we’ve been planning or should we postpone it until…?” Unfortunately, these types of issues can take their toll on you, your spouse, your parent, and your children.
Who are the family members who provide care? According to statistics compiled by the National Family Caregivers Association:
- They total more than 65 million people, 29% of the U.S. population are in care giving roles.
- They spend an average of 20 hours per week providing care.
- Most are women (nearly seven out of ten).
- The typical family caregiver is a 49-year-old woman caring for her widowed, 69-year-old mother.
- Some are not adults: 1.4 million children ages 8 to 18 provide care for an adult relative.
Some caregivers pay a high price… financially, emotionally, and physically. Nearly half (47%) report an increase in care giving expenses, which averages $5,531 annually.
Just as bad, nearly a quarter (23%) of caregivers report that their own health is poor, and between 40% and 70% have clinically significant symptoms of depression, far above the national average.
What can you do? It is important to protect the financial security and physical and emotional health of all generations in your household when a parent or in-law comes to live with you. Consider the following:
- Seek community help and outreach. There are a number of sources for emotional, informational and financial support for caregivers today. A good place to start is with your county or municipal government.
Or contact the Administration on Aging of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services by calling clicking on the link above or calling (202) 619-0724.
- Look into Medicare Supplement Insurance. Medicare does not pay all the bills, and our individual medical costs generally tend to soar as we age. Find out how a Medicare Supplement policy on your retired family member can protect the assets of all members of the family.
- Consider Long-term Care Insurance. This can be one of the most important purchases the adult children or an aging parent makes. Benefits can help pay for nursing home care and for home services.
Many adult children purchase LTC coverage for their parents.
Key: Coverage must be purchased while the insured is relatively healthy. Also, the younger the age of the insured, the lower the annual premium, so it is best to buy it now rather than wait.
- Get good legal advice. Even if a parent lives under your roof, you may not have the authority to make financial decisions on his/her behalf. Even in an emergency, you cannot write checks, access funds or make critical health care decisions without legal authorization. Plus, care often involves more than physical needs. According to Census Bureau statistics reported in Caring Transitions, 16.4 million Americans suffer “from cognitive limitations and mental/emotional illness.”
That is why you should discuss establishing contingent powers of attorney in advance of need. The same goes for a health care power of attorney. Additionally, review your own wills and those of your parents. Look into trust arrangements and other tools to protect all the generations. Meet with an attorney to discuss options.
- Life insurance. When a parent moves in with you, your family responsibilities increase. Therefore, you should review your life coverage and that of your spouse. If you die prematurely, additional life insurance can help make sure that the members of your immediate family as well as your extended family maintain their standard of living.
- Map out a long-term, comprehensive strategy. Depending on your family’s situation, you may need to develop a strategy for college funding for children, as well as your own retirement and estate planning. Think about the big, long-term picture.
The bottom line: Perhaps your own children are grown. Or you may be a member of what is known as the “Sandwich Generation,” caught in the middle between the costs of raising your children and the costs of helping your aging parents. Either way, when a parent needs help, it can be a time of unexpectedly high financial responsibilities. Taking these and other steps can help you meet those responsibilities to yourself and to your loved ones.