How to Help Your Aging Parents Without Going Broke
By Kate Ashford
From making their daily life easier to affording in-home care, here's the (money) wise guide you need
When Sue Dietz noticed her mother's dementia worsening, she began spending every day at her parents' house near Pittsburgh — making sure her mom was eating properly and taking medications. But the schedule became too much when Dietz's daughter in North Carolina had a baby. "It wasn't fair to my daughter that I couldn't be with her when she needed me, too," says Dietz, 56. Although she found in-home help that her parents are paying for, she worries that their money may run out and she'll need to dig into her savings to cover the costs.
Dietz isn't alone in dealing with the cost of caring for an aging parent — or getting nervous about the prospect. Some 41 percent of baby boomers with a living parent are helping to care for them, according to a recent USA Today/ABC News/Gallup Poll, and nearly half of those who aren't worry about being able to do so in the future. The price tag isn't cheap: MetLife says the average price for in-home nonmedical help runs about $20 an hour, an assisted-living residence costs roughly $36,000 a year, and a private room in a nursing home goes for over $77,000 annually.
But you can help aging parents get the assistance they need without burning through family finances. Start here with our guide to the best strategies and resources available. A bonus: The Good Housekeeping Research Institute had a panel of seniors test products that can help keep your parents safe; a small purchase now might avoid a major medical expense later.
Have the Conversation
The first move in gauging the help your parents need is having The Talk. You'll want to find out how much they've prepared for the future, legally and financially. For instance, do they have key legal documents such as a durable power of attorney and an up-to-date will? "Use your own experience to get the conversation going," advises Virginia Morris, author of How to Care for Aging Parents. "Say, 'I'm starting to do my own estate planning, and I wonder what you had drawn up.'" Or print out this article to show them and say, "This article says we should talk about where you keep your papers." It's vital to be prepared; otherwise, you may have to find these documents on your own if your parent, say, can no longer cover up worsening dementia.
If you've got a good relationship with your parents, tackle the tricky financial questions as well. Find out if they have long-term care insurance, and if not, how they plan on paying for nursing home care or in-home help if necessary. Again, tell your parents you're thinking about doing estate planning and wondered what financial choices they made. "Make it about you, rather than them," says Hugh Delehanty, editor in chief of AARP Publications — your parents are less likely to get defensive.