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How to Help Your Aging Parents Without Going Broke

How to Save Money

Hiring help doesn't have to mean draining your parents' bank account — or yours. Adult day services, which average $64 a day, are far less expensive than in-home daytime help. And in-home, nonmedical daytime assistance (about $18 an hour) will probably be a bit less costly than an in-home health aide (about $20 an hour), if your parents won't need medical supervision. The federal government might shoulder some expenses, too. Medicare usually pays for some short-term, in-home medical help prescribed by a doctor for people 65 and older. But it won't pay for long-term custodial care. If your parent does qualify for that, check medicare.gov to find local Medicare-certified in-home health-care agencies.

Medicaid rules vary by state. The program may cover home care or day services if your 65-plus parent is nursing-home — eligible and meets low-income requirements. So you'll likely have to exhaust your parents' resources before turning to this type of help. If your dad needs constant surveillance, Medicaid would likely require him to go to a nursing home or similar facility (check govbenefits.gov for details).

Since this is difficult terrain, consider consulting an elder-care attorney to help navigate regulations and discuss asset-management planning, which will be important if your parents' health declines. Find a specialist at the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys' site: naela.com.

Look into lowering expenses through local senior programs. For example, utility companies may offer a break on energy bills — just give them a call and ask. Church or synagogue volunteer programs might provide a companion to keep your mom company periodically. Some areas have transportation services that can save the cost of using taxis or part-time drivers. In the Boston area, disabled or impaired seniors can use The Ride, which provides a door-to-door wheelchair-access van or sedan for $2. "I had a 90-something client who took it to work every day," says Suzanne Modigliani, a geriatric-care manager in Brookline, MA.

With some delicate conversations and aid from the right places, you can help your parents stay in their homes for as long as possible. "It's hard, make no mistake," Ginzler says. "But respect the fact that Mom and Dad want to control their lives as much as they can. Being compassionate will lead you to the right decisions."

Dealing with Alzheimer's or Dementia

Memory loss goes hand in hand with getting older. It's completely normal for an older person to walk into the kitchen and occasionally wonder, "Now, why was I coming in here again?" But if your mother is, say, coming home from the supermarket empty-handed because she couldn't "find anything" on her grocery list, or if she keeps her cleaning supplies in the fridge, pay attention. These may be signs of dementia or Alzheimer's (see 10signs.org for more info). Talk to your parent's doctor to determine if Alzheimer's may be involved.

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