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Caring for Aging Parents: Don’t Wing It

Having a long-term road map and a savings plan in place can help you care for your parents in the way they desire.

As the boomers and their parents age, more and more family members are managing eldercare responsibilities. The emotional, physical and financial demands of caring for aging parents can be extensive. What’s more, the healthcare needs of aging parents can become overwhelmingly expensive — and may include costs that affect their family members in ways that aren’t immediately apparent. 

Healthcare and finances aren’t easy topics for many families to broach. In fact, research from the Money Across Generations IISM study shows that 36 percent of boomers’ parents feel that healthcare discussions with their family members are likely or very likely to create tension or spark an argument.1 

Having a long-term road map and a savings plan in place can help you care for your parents in the way they desire while enabling you to continue working towards your financial goals. This can be helpful in making informed short-term decisions, especially when there are unexpected expenses and emotions involved. 

To get started: 

  • Talk about finances now. While it may be uncomfortable for your parents to discuss their finances with you, it’s essential that you are familiar with their financial strategy and resources. This includes knowing what type of medical, disability and long-term care insurance they have and what those policies cover. Use this information – along with if and how much you’re willing to help from your own funds – to evaluate which healthcare options are realistically within reach when medical needs arise.  
  • Create a contact list. Medical emergencies and sudden changes in a person’s health can happen as parents age. Because you may eventually need access to your parents’ bank accounts and other financial resources on short notice, make sure they’ve compiled a list of account numbers, computer login names and passwords, and the names, addresses and phone numbers of the professionals they work with. In addition to knowing the location of the list, you’ll also need to know the location of important financial and legal documents and lockbox keys.  
  • Identify current healthcare costs and needs. Become familiar with the medical and pharmaceutical costs that your parent(s) currently incur and determine if there are ways to reduce these expenses. For example, you or your parents may consider moving from a name brand to a generic prescription or, instead of filling prescriptions at your local pharmacy, ordering a long-term supply from a mail-order provider. 
  • Build a support network. Talk with siblings or other family members, neighbors and industry professionals to determine who can help you care for your aging parents — and in what capacity and at what cost. Proactively establishing a support network can help you avoid a strain on your time and energy down the road. 
  • Anticipate future lifestyle changes and challenges. Even if they aren’t yet needed, explore the costs of in-home, senior apartment, assisted living and memory care housing and services, as well as the costs of having a parent live with you. This includes determining whether your home would need to be modified to provide additional space or comforts, such as wheelchair access. Understanding these costs ahead of time can help you identify what you and your parents can afford and will give you time to consider the pros and cons of each option. 
  • Become familiar with assistance programs. Your parents may qualify for government programs, supplements or services. Visit the government hosted benefits site — www.Govbenefits.gov — for information. Also, your county or city has a federally-mandated Area Agency on Aging staffed by professionals who can provide you with information about elder programs and services in your area.  
  • Keep your retirement goals in mind. Continue to manage your budget and save for your future. Be mindful that leaving the workforce even temporarily, may seem tempting — and in some cases may be necessary — but exiting and re-entering affects your immediate income and can impact your ability maintain your earning power. What’s more, it can impact your ability to take advantage of an employer-sponsored retirement plan. Consider these factors when you evaluate the total costs of any option. 
  • Know your rights at work. The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) allows covered employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to provide care for a family member with a serious health condition.2 If you are caring for a parent, inform your Human Resources department about your situation to take advantage of this legal protection, if relevant, and create a workable plan within your company’s policies. 

Thinking about caring for an ill or aging parent isn’t always easy to do, but creating a plan now can save you headaches down the road when new circumstances may suddenly arise as your parents age. Consider working with a financial advisor who can help you plan for unexpected expenses and prepare for the costs of healthcare during your own retirement. 

Rob Davis lives in University Place with his wife Lorri and sons Wesley and Parker.  He is a Financial Advisor and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER practitioner™ with Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. in Tacoma, Washington.  Rob specializes in fee-based financial planning and asset management strategies and has been in practice for 35 years.  He is licensed/registered to do business with U.S. residents only in the states of Washington, Idaho and Arizona. 

1 The Money Across Generations IISM study was commissioned by Ameriprise Financial, Inc. and conducted by telephone by GfK in December 2011 among 1,006 affluent baby boomers (those with $100,000 or more in investable assets); 300 parents of baby boomers; and 300 children of baby boomers at least 18 years old. The margin of error is +/- three percentage points for the affluent boomers segment and +/- six percentage points for the parents and children of boomers segments. 

2 United States Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, Family and Medical Leave Act http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/

Ameriprise Financial and its representatives do not provide tax or legal advice. Consult with your tax advisor or attorney regarding specific tax issues. 

Brokerage, investment and financial advisory services are made available through Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA and SIPC. 

© 2012 Ameriprise Financial, Inc. All rights reserved.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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