Things you should know about aging parents

Published: May 31, 2022 | 12:53 AM ET

By: Ivory Johnson, CFP, ChFC, Founder, Delancey Wealth Management, LLC

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The cost of care for an elderly parent has been well documented. For instance, the national average for a private room at a nursing home and a Home Health Aid costs $9,034 and $5,148 a month respectively. In spite of this, only 7% of Americans over the age of 50 have long term care insurance and many families do not have access to the resources to pay. Nevertheless, there are issues that the families of aging parents must face that go beyond the scope of long-term care expenses.

There are other expenses that you may not have accounted for:
The cost of a home health care attendant or nursing home is just the start because that may not cover prescription medication and other unknown costs. Moreover, unless you live close to your parents there will be travel costs and time away from work. Chances are the siblings will discuss the cost of care without much consideration for the ancillary expenses. In a perfect situation these matters are carefully budgeted.

Sibling rivalries are renewed:
The demand for capital and caregiving responsibilities has the potential to reinvigorate past grievances among the children. Typically, if the children are tasked with paying for care, the child with access to the most resources are generally expected to shoulder the burden. This may lead to an analysis of why that child was more successful and the corresponding bad decisions made by others. Spouses may get involved in an attempt to protect another goal such as education for their own child. Similarly, a child who has sacrificed their career in exchange for caregiving duties may feel underappreciated. These conflicts should be openly discussed, and if necessary, relieved through counseling.

Sympathy has its limits:
Odds are your coworkers, friends and associates are navigating challenges of their own. You may have family members who benefited from the assistance that your parents offered others when they were healthy only to lack any reciprocation from ancillary family members when they find themselves in need. Don’t take this personally; there’s a good chance that many of them are emotionally and financially exhausted.

There may be resources available for veterans:
Our Veteran’s Administration has received its fair share of negative press, but they do offer benefits that include respite care, adult day care and caregiver counseling depending on their priority group. You will likely need to become a persistent red tape negotiator, but it may be worth your time and effort. A good resource is a booklet from the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs entitled “Federal benefits for veterans, Dependents and Survivors”. It lists benefits, requirements, and contact numbers.

It happens faster than you think:
Certain conditions such as Alzheimer’s happen at the speed of a switchblade, going from occasional forgetfulness to being unable to drive in a matter of months. A fall or a stroke can render an independent adult completely unable to care for themselves. It’s important to get a catalog of important documents early. These include the location of the will, POAs, insurance policies and the contact information for their doctors and other advisors.

Caregiving is a dangerous occupation:
More than half of caregivers say a decline in their health affects their ability to provide care, nearly half of caregivers are concerned about the physical strain that comes with caregiving, and 44% are concerned about the emotional strains according to a survey from SCAN Health. Caregivers need more than occasional relief; they also need to find ways to relieve stress.

It might be easier to buy long-term care insurance:
If your parents are reasonably healthy and under the age of 70, having them buy insurance or the children chipping in for a premium mitigates some of the family friction and the financial burden of caring for them later.

Enjoy the moments when they are themselves:
Your parents’ personalities are still there. Every now and then they will say or do something to remind you of who they were in their prime. My father has Alzheimer’s, but one day he took me to the garage and pointed at two 2x4s he put at the end of the garage to let my mother and sister know when to stop. He said “look at that, I had to put that down so them two jokers would stop hitting the damn wall”. Then he looked at me and deadpanned “and they tell me I can’t drive.” That’s vintage pops and it literally made my day.

It’s no easy task dealing with an aging parent because it’s both expensive and emotionally charged. Having a clear sense of what’s ahead of you and a blueprint to manage the process makes it all the more manageable.

Ivory Johnson, CFP®, ChFC
Delancey Wealth Management, LLC
20 F Street, NW, Ste. 750
Washington, DC  20001
(202) 507-6340

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