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Caring for Your Parents As They Age

Aging is a fact of life.

Everyone gets older, and as we age we often need more support from our loved ones. That’s especially true for parents, who sometimes find themselves in the role of dependant rather than provider as they move past retirement age.

It’s an interesting dynamic to which older children must adjust. When a parent gets older, an adult child often becomes the caregiver, driving mom or dad to doctor’s appointments, going grocery shopping and making sure an elderly parent is taking any necessary medications.

Caregiving can be a huge challenge for adult children, especially those with families of their own to take care of. But it’s possible to manage this responsibility in a way that allows you to maintain balance while giving an aging parent the care they need.

Managing Family Dynamics When It Comes to Elder Care

One of the most challenging things about caring for an aging parent is sibling dynamics. Siblings may not always agree on the best way to provide care for an elderly parent, and sometimes one sibling may shoulder most of the caregiving burden.

In these situations, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open, and remember that you all want what’s best for your parent. If you have siblings, talk to them about who would be the best fit to take care of your mom or dad. Does someone live nearby? Does he or she have more schedule flexibility to drive your mom or dad to and from medical appointments? What about finances—who can afford to shoulder or share the costs associated with caregiving?

Ideally, you should have this discussion with your family before it’s even necessary. Talk to your parent about what he or she wants for long-term care and have it all outlined in a living will or other legal document that clearly spells out their wishes and how your family should proceed.

Options for Elder Care

Depending on your loved one’s health and needs, you will have to decide between short-term and long-term care options such as assisted living, having your parent live with you or helping them continue to live as independently as possible.

Elder care, no matter what option you choose, can be incredibly expensive. Though insurance usually covers home health care, there are other out-of-pocket expenses you will need to consider, such as getting help from a certified nurses aid (CNA) or placement in assisted living. Assistance from a CNA can range from $16 to $18 an hour. Placement in an assisted living facility can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000 a month, while memory care assisted living for an elderly parent suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia can range from $3,200 to $5,500 a month.

Long-term care also can be expensive, and regular health insurance and government assistance programs like Medicaid and Medicare don’t entirely cover these costs. Long-term care facilities may be completely covered for a specified period (typically 20 days), but then move to a copay fee structure after this time, which can be $150 per month. Private pay will cost $228 a month for room and board.

Aside from long-term care options, you also may have to consider arrangements if your parent suffers from a serious illness. Fortunately, the Medicare benefit can help cover the costs of end of life, palliative and hospice in-home care.

It’s important to understand what insurance will and won’t cover. Some health care providers, nursing homes and home care workers don’t accept Medicaid, and Medicaid typically requires that your parent receives care from a specified list of providers. Medicare also places parameters on what is covered, what isn’t and the amount of out-of-pocket health care expenses you will incur for your parent’s care via deductibles and coinsurance. You also should consider long-term care insurance, which can cover long-term care costs for an aging parent that may not be covered by regular health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid.

Other Important Things to Know

If you’ve become the primary caregiver for an aging parent, talk to a financial professional about how best to manage the caregiving costs. Depending on the situation, you can claim an elderly parent as a dependant if you are paying for most of your parent’s living and health care expenses. Also make sure you have all the important information about your parent’s health care needs written down and stored in a safe place. This should include the name of your parent’s doctors, a list of medications he or she takes and the dosage, copies of any insurance policies and a complete health history.

Caregiving can be difficult, but with support from friends, family and doctors, you can manage this responsibility and give your parents the best care possible. Though it sometimes can feel overwhelming, caregiving is important work that many of us undertake to ensure that the people who cared for us are cared for as they age.

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