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How to Help Your Aging Parents Without Going Broke

Get the Right Help

Once you have this information in hand, get your parents' perspective on how they think they are doing and their hopes for the future. Nearly 90 percent of adults over 50 say that they want to remain in their homes as long as they can. And many of them can stay put for years — with the right support. Here's how to determine the care they need and then match their needs with the most appropriate type of assistance.

If your parents are coherent but have trouble getting around, look into local transportation services and community meal programs like Meals on Wheels (whose staffers will check in on your parents periodically). These types of offerings are community-specific, and their prices vary. The local Area Agency on Aging, sometimes called the Department of Elderly Affairs or the Senior Citizens Office, can fill you in on what's available. Find an office near your parents at eldercare.gov.

If your parents are mobile but show mild signs of dementia or forgetfulness, you may want to investigate out-of-home adult day services or day health-service programs. Supervised adult day services let the elderly socialize with other seniors, and day health services may have nurses who can give out shots and medications. These services often have their own facilities or may be part of a local community center. In addition to asking the Area Agency on Aging for names of reputable, convenient programs, you can consult the staffs of nearby senior centers, churches, and synagogues.

If your parents are less independent — say, if your mom is having a hard time getting in and out of bed or sometimes forgets she turned on the stove or bath — she'll need in-home care. "It took three different people and about three months to find a perfect match for my mother," says Helen Nazar Bishop, whose mom has Alzheimer's. "And we are always communicating with the home-care worker." As a first step in finding a reliable caregiver, start at the Website of the Family Caregiver Alliance (caregiver.org), which has put together the first comprehensive, 50-state online directory of caregiver support programs.

For a personalized, overall-care plan, hire a geriatric-care manager, usually a nurse or social worker trained in helping the elderly. You'll typically pay $300 to $800, depending on where your parents live, to have this person visit them in their home, assess how they're doing, and recommend cost-efficient things they might need to stay independent. "Geriatric-care managers have their fingers on the pulse of services available locally," says Elinor Ginzler, senior vice president of livable communities for AARP. For an additional fee, the geriatric-care manager can also make all the arrangements. Expect to pay roughly $80 to $200 an hour for this service, depending on how much attention your parents need and where they live; the cost isn't covered by health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid. You can find Professional Geriatric Care Managers (PGCMs), who are trained, experienced professionals, by visiting caremanager.org.

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