Caring for aging parents

As more of my friends enter middle age, they're talking less about how to care for their kids and more about how to care for their parents. Our mothers and fathers are nearing (and, in some cases, surpassing) seventy years of age, and not all of them are financially prepared.

A GRS reader named Shauna recently wrote with a typical scenario:

My husband and I are in our early thirties and finally getting our finances in order after years of piling up debt. We both have parents who were never particularly good with money, and they've entered their early retirement years with no savings or assets to speak of — no houses, no savings, no emergency fund. We're looking down the road, and realizing that we will probably be financially responsible for all of them at some point in the not too distant future. Do you have any advice for us?

Actually, I don't have any advice for Shauna. Why not? Because I'm in a similar position, and I have similar questions.

Close to Home

In the past, I've hinted at my mother's ongoing health problems, but I've been coy about their precise nature. I want to respect her privacy. At the same time, she faces very real issues that have equally real implications for her personal finances, and for the finances of her three children.

My mother is 62 years old. For fifteen years, she's wrestled with severe mental illness (which makes her uncomfortable interacting with the outside world), as well as a host of chronic physical ailments. Every day, she takes a finely-tuned cocktail of over a dozen prescription medications to help her cope with these problems.

I've mentioned a couple of Mom's health crises in the past, because whenever a severe mental or physical problem occurs, it disrupts my ability to work. For example, I spent much of the past week helping Mom after a minor surgery during which her normal drug regimen was interrupted, causing her to descend into confusion.

I drove Mom to the hospital, saw her after surgery, bought her groceries when she returned home, and have been dropping in to be sure she's okay. Last night, Kris and I delivered dinner to her.

I find all of this stressful. Whenever Mom has an acute crisis, it doesn't just affect her — it affects me, too. I do my best to help her, but I feel like I'm just not very good at it. I don't know how to reach her, how to help her, how to let her know I love her.

Note: In some circles, mental illness is a taboo topic. Just as many folks consider it gauche to talk about money, some think it's best to keep discussions of mental health out of the public arena. That's too bad. It doesn't help anyone to hide these problems. It's only through sharing our experiences honestly that we can learn to cope effectively with these situations.

Facing Reality

My family has talked a little about what Mom will do in the future, but not seriously. Plus, we've mostly been re-active instead of pro- active; we deal with trouble when it arrives instead of before it happens. Now, though, I think we're beginning to realize that we need a plan.

As a family, we need to decide what is best for Mom, both now and five years from now. And we need to juggle the following factors:

  • Mom has minimal cash savings and a modest retirement account (through the box factory). The box factory also pays her a monthly salary, which will be her primary source of income for the rest of her life. Plus, she's eligible to receive Social Security benefits soon. (And I think she's eligible to receive Social Security survivors benefits for my father; I need to research that.) So, her financial situation isn't fantastic, but it's okay.
  • For now, Mom is capable of living on her own. But when she gets off her meds, she becomes increasingly confused and uncommunicative. She misses one pill, and then she misses three, and then eight, and before long she's not taking any, which means self-care goes out the window.
  • Mom doesn't advocate for herself. At her medical appointments, she doesn't ask questions. If she's confused, she doesn't ask for clarification. She doesn't follow through with recommendations for group therapy and other ways to work through her fears. She's apprehensive about social situations, even grocery shopping or family Thanksgiving dinner.

If Mom's age-related difficulties were only physical, a residential facility might be the answer as her independence declines. But how do you ask a person who doesn't like to leave the house to permanently move to a place where she has “strangers” around her at all times?

Our family has to sit down with Mom and hash some of this out. What can she do for herself? What does she need help with? Should we hire somebody to check on her once a day? Once a week? Should she move in with one of her three boys? And how do we pay for this? Pull money from the box factory? Chip in ourselves? What about long-term care insurance? How does that work? Is it too late to buy it?

Basically, we have a lot of questions, and we don't really know whom to ask.

Seeking Help

On Saturday, I met with Lane, a long-time GRS reader who has become a friend. Lane and his mother went through similar issues, and I hoped he could offer some insight. I told him I felt inept at this — that I didn't know how to help Mom. “It's almost like our roles are reversed,” I said. “Like now I'm the parent and she's the child.”

“Having to be the adult of your parents isn't easy, but sometimes that's what's needed,” Lane told me. He described the steps he'd taken to help his mother, the things he did that she could not. (For example, he paid bills for her every weekend.)

Lane explained the difference between independent-living facilities (which sound kind of like college dorms) and assisted-living facilities (which are similar, but with individual supervision and monitoring). “If you think your mother might need an assisted-living facility, don't wait until the last minute,” Lane said. “There's usually a long waiting list. If you think she'll need it, act now. Talk about it with her, and make a plan.”

Lane asked what sorts of legal preparations we'd made. “Has your mother drawn up a Power of Attorney?” he asked. “Does she have an Advance Directive? What about a will or a trust?”

“I don't know,” I said. “I know she's given me Power of Attorney, because we arranged for that after the last time she was in trouble. And she drew up an Advance Directive before her surgery, but I don't know about a will or a trust.”

“You need to find out,” Lane said. “These are the shittiest conversations, but you have to have them.”

Moving Forward

There's no real climax to this story. I don't have any answers. All I have are a lot of questions.

Mom seems to be recovering well from her surgery. She's certainly doing much better than she was a week ago, when she was off her meds. So, last night I asked her about her preparations and preferences for the future.

She told me she has a will, and that she wants to stay in her house. She's not opposed to having someone come help her on a regular basis, but she wants to stay put. And to be honest, when she's as lucid as she was last night, it almost seems absurd to be thinking about this stuff. But every time Mom's doing okay, we put off this discussion, and then we regret it the next time there's a crisis.

I'd really like to hear your experience, though. Have you helped your aging parents? Are you doing so now? What advice do you have? What can you tell me about my situation and/or about Shauna's situation from the start of this article? What financial considerations do we need to be aware of?

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s
s
9 years ago

Not much advice and here are our plans. If my Mum gets too bad, her request is to send her back to England to live. She worked for 8 years in the UK before coming to the US…in 1967! She worked here in the US and her benefits in the UK are still better. Her current US Federal pension was cut and her insurance coverage changed to not cover some of her prescriptions – so a double hit this year. In the UK, she can ride the local bus for free – here, we just got local bus service two… Read more »

Derek
Derek
9 years ago

Since I’m still young, I do not have parents that I need to care for yet, but I am seeing the situation play out with my grandmother.

She is my only living grandparent, and she has developed alzhiemers. I know that all of her money is gone, and that may parents are footing the bill for the alzhiemers retirement home where she currently resides. Since they are not “made of money” themselves, I’m sure that this is not easy for them to do. I’m sensing that history is bound to repeat itself when they get older…

Kate
Kate
9 years ago

JD – Thank you for being brave enough to talk about your mom’s mental illness. You are absolutely right, we as a society need to talk about it openly. I have a family member with schizo affective disorder. I try to talk about him openly and dispel any stigma that I can, but it can be pretty upsetting to be met with other people’s ignorance. Your mom is very lucky that she has a son who #1 is willing to care for her and #2 is able to care for her. Have you gone to her doctors appointments with her?… Read more »

Mom of five
Mom of five
9 years ago

Rather than going into a Medicaid funded nursing home, my MIL moved in with us until her death 3 years later. My husband is one of nine siblings, 4 of whom live within a 10 minute drive from us. My advice would be to get your siblings on a schedule. Have assigned days and assigned tasks. We didn’t do this and with the exception of one sibling who occasionally helped out, we did ALL of the caretaking. The reality is one of you will become the primary caretaker, but don’t assume your siblings will chip in with some help, because… Read more »

Luke
Luke
9 years ago

J.D. – I hope your Mum is feeling a bit more like herself in the near future. I don’t really have much to add on specifics, but Lane was entirely right about having the shitty conversations while you still can. My fiancee’s grandmother suffers from senile dementia and her daughter put off some of the practical arrangements (power of attorney etc.) until it was too late. Since then her grandmother has developed a real sense of paranoia and distrust as regards money (obsessive natures seem to be brought out by the illness) and refuses to even contemplate it. Which is… Read more »

SF_UK
SF_UK
9 years ago

Have that discussion. It’s not pleasant, but it saves a lot of heartache further down the line. My grandfather sewed everything up very neatly, even down to badgering the ministers in his last days so that he could have the funeral he wanted. When he finally went, all my mother and uncle had to decide was the wood for the coffin. Literally. Everything else was organised, or at least decided. It gave them space to grieve, but also assured them that they were abiding by his wishes. I’ve had some of these discussions with my parents (now in their early… Read more »

Mike Piper
Mike Piper
9 years ago

I’m sorry to hear about your mother’s health difficulties. And, unfortunately, I have nothing to offer in the way of advice there. Regarding Social Security though, I’d suggest reading the relevant chapters in The Bogleheads’ Guide to Retirement Planning and/or Swedroe’s Only Guide You’ll Ever Need to the Right Financial Plan. Also, I’d look into annuitizing what savings your mom does have (or a portion of them) via a single premium immediate fixed lifetime annuity–likely one with inflation adjustments. It eliminates the chance that you or your siblings will inherit the money involved, but it increases the amount she can… Read more »

Nicole
Nicole
9 years ago

My sympathies. We’re not going through this right now, but we’ve watched my parents (and uncle) deal with this with my late grandma, and my husband’s parents with his grandmothers. It is definitely true about the waitlists for independent/assisted living facilities. We delayed too long on my grandmother, and by the time she had to go to one, she could not get into a good one (or the excellent nursing home that only served people in the assisted living home). At some point my parents, in their 60s could no longer lift her (when my sister went to college), so… Read more »

brokeprofessionals.com
brokeprofessionals.com
9 years ago

My parents are still working and very capable of caring for themselves presently. Like many parents, however, they have given too much to their children. Weddings, college, help towards first cars, car insurance through college, spend money during high school and college, and on and on and on. I know that when their time comes to retire, they will not have saved enough for themselves. I can only help that by then I am doing well enough to help them like they have always helped me, and to the extent they deserve. Best of luck, I watched both my parents… Read more »

chett daniel
chett daniel
9 years ago

JD, My advice is to get professional advice. I took a class in estate planning last year from an estate planning attorney. There are so many considerations that must be made regarding long term care and eventual mortality. An estate planning attorney will better be able to tell you the most cost effective way to pay for care, the tax implications of the existing estate (and how to minimize them) and helps you navigate the legal and financial aspects of aging. The attorney that taught our class actually received permission from a few of his clients to allow us to… Read more »

Sam
Sam
9 years ago

Happily my parents have done pretty well for themselves and planned ahead regarding money, both are also in pretty good health. But I have had the conversation with my Mom, who lives in the same state but 4.5 hours away, that the next time they move they might want to consider moving closer to us. My Mom, who took care of her parents in their late years recognizes how hard it was for her with her parents 7 hours away, so she is thinking about that issue. She is also thinking about downsizing and moving to a retirment community that… Read more »

Annemarie
Annemarie
9 years ago

I went through a very similar situation…my mother was also mentally ill (Dad more or less looked after her), and her problems exacerbated when Dad became unable to move or speak. (We put them both in care. There was no choice. But the problems do not stop at that point, I’m sorry to say.) I also have an aunt with schizophrenia (who is capable of living on her own with help), and although she doesn’t live nearby, we talk every day and she will probably move here when her physical health deteriorates. There are no words to describe how hard… Read more »

Sheila
Sheila
8 years ago
Reply to  Annemarie

Have you checked into medication monitoring by a visiting nurse? Some health plans cover it. And it may give you a break.

Going through a very similar situation helping a parent with controlled/treated mental illness and multiple physical ailments. There are, of course, multiple daily medications that must be sorted out.

The biggest problem I see in my parent’s situation is family abandonment, this at a time when my relative could benefit from the MOST emotional support right now.

So, social/emotional support is provided by me, and one other caretaker, who I’ve hired.

Jennifer Chamberland
Jennifer Chamberland
10 months ago
Reply to  Annemarie

It is so important that you discuss what your elderly adults want. You want them to feel their “wants” are respected. Just placing them , takes away any independence they have left and may make them resentful. My mother who died at 84years of age lived in our family home until she died. She had a housekeeper, gardener and all of her 7 children checked in on her regularly and were able to spend time with her as well. She did not want to be placed in a home ! All the money she saved by not going into a… Read more »

sjw
sjw
9 years ago

One thing to check on, she says she has a will – do you know where it is? Can someone check to make sure it is still valid etc? My parents are hitting their 70s. I’m not really concerned at the moment about health, they’re in good shape (can cycle/walk for 2-3 hours), and they seem to be ok for money (able to save up and pay cash for a kitchen + 3 bath renovation), and both sides have a history of hitting 90 in pretty good shape (should they avoid poor lifestyle decisions). So I can’t decide if I… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
9 years ago

I’ve seen my parents go through this with my grandparents (We’ve done Alzheimer’s twice now). I’m not in the U.S., so I can’t speak to specific services, books and blogs that would help (though I know there are many!) But one thing I would suggest is to have a have a life line. In other words, regularly meet up with a friend who has gone through or is going through what you’re experiencing. People who aren’t in the position of being a caregiver often don’t know what it’s really like, and it helps to have someone who truly understands. I… Read more »

Dawn
Dawn
9 years ago

My mom also had mental illness so I can relate to this. She was schizophrenic and when she moved into a nursing home, we had to move her out due to her paranoia with “strangers”. She has passed on but her older sister is going through the transition of moving from her house to her daughter’s house so I’m witnessing this again. My main lesson/”advice” is to make choices before life makes them for you. As our parents age, some will want to stay put but that’s not always a good idea and can be dangerous. We realize and appreciate… Read more »

Everyday Tips
Everyday Tips
9 years ago

Mom will never want to leave her home, so you are right to want to try and prepare ahead of time as you and your siblings will be the ones making the decision. It is so hard when your loved ones have complete lucidity one day, and ‘not so much’ the next. The ‘dorm’ type living arrangements usually won’t assist with medication, so if your mom fights meds, she may need somewhere with more ‘help’ if she deteriorates. Assisted Living is very expensive. There are not good answers. As great as it is to plan ahead of time, some things… Read more »

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
9 years ago

Thanks for the open, understanding advice so far, everyone. Kris and I agonized for hours over sharing this story today, but your responses have been great. And some of you have the experience to read between the lines very well regarding the specific issues Mom faces, and it’s helpful to hear your advice with similar situations. If you have advice for Shauna, please share it, too. I used her question as a launching point, but then let my own situation take over. I feel bad about that, and want to be sure she gets answers to her questions about preparing… Read more »

MR
MR
9 years ago

I just want to say that finding a medical practice with completely electronic records is a godsend in these cases. My ex-husband had a seizure disorder and was a poor reporter of his own medical history. Having every doctor who saw him be able to look through his ACTUAL past history and which medications worked or didn’t really made a huge difference in his care and health. I went to a lecture by a psychiatric researcher once where she said that the next big breakthrough in the treatment of mental illness was going to be lifetime medical records. Relying on… Read more »

Cara
Cara
9 years ago

Shauna, I don’t have any good advice for you except to save, plan, and save and plan some more. It’s good that you’re anticipating this problem now so you can plan ahead. I’ve been saving aggressively and also purchased long-term care insurance for my Mom (my Dad couldn’t qualify, unfortunately). The tough part is balancing this with planning for my own care as well since I’m single and an only child. I’m scared that I won’t have any support, even emotional support, to fall back on either now or in the future. It’s not fun to think about, but it’s… Read more »

Amy
Amy
9 years ago

I’ve cared for both of my parents in various ways. After an aneurysm my mom experienced severe brain damage resulting in physical paralysis, dementia and memory loss. Because I didn’t have any debts (except student loans which were deferred)I was able to quit my job and be her full time caregiver for three years. After her death she left me $$ that I used to pay for my father’s medical expenses (those were her wishes). I identify strongly with your comments about wanting to help and feeling inept. Like anything else you get better with practice but it is incredibly… Read more »

Dangerman
Dangerman
9 years ago

“My mother is 62 years old… she’s eligible to receive Social Security benefits soon”

Soon? Isn’t she eligible right now?

SS says “You must be at least 62 for the entire month to receive benefits.” (http://www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2/agereduction.htm)

J.D.: You’re right. What I ought to have said is that she can begin drawing benefits, if needed. Again, I need to talk to her about this. (It’s better to wait, if possible.)

Liz
Liz
9 years ago

One recommendation for Shauna (and others), I’ve noticed a huge difference on medicaid nursing homes based on location. Near my parents, they are really good (small town). Near me (suburban city)…not so good and you need to pay OOP for good care. It might be helpful to look around now at the options. Just a thought.

Jessica
Jessica
9 years ago
J.D. – Another thing you can do is ask the doctor if you can audio-record what she/he says during the visits. Sometimes it’s hard to listen to what they’re saying when you’re trying to think of questions to ask the doctor (especially since I know I always feel rushed at the doctor).

J.D.: You rock, Jessica! Great suggestion.

Jen
Jen
9 years ago

Your friend has given you some very good advice. I can add two more things to your list that will help. First, as things come up, contact your local Area Agency on Aging. Our local group was my lifeline while I cared for my mom. Through them we were able to get a housekeeper, who came in three days a week, a home nurse, help with insurance, ect. She lived in an independent living facility. I did all her shopping, laundry & took care of any dr app., ect. The nusre came in to do needed treatments, sometimes on a… Read more »

asdf
asdf
9 years ago

Sometimes the greatest gift we can give to ourselves and our children is the chance to have your elderly parent move in. I was able to get to know my grandmother this way. In some ways this does put a burden on the middle generation, but there are some benefits that help to compensate for the additional work. For instance in this case JD would be able to moniter his mothers daily pills, JD and his siblings could start the process of sorting his mothers bills and less important items, and finally you have the chance to spend the golden… Read more »

HollyP
HollyP
9 years ago

I’ll second the other commenter about contacting your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA). You should be able to find the one for your area at http://www.n4a.org/ . If you can afford to hire a geriatric care manager that would be another great resource to review your loved ones’ needs and identify potential care options. In my area the cost is probably in the $150-$200/hour range, not sure what they cost elsewhere. You can locate on here: http://www.caremanager.org/ The National Council on Aging offers an online screening for subsidized programs at http://www.benefitscheckup.org/ Every state runs different programs and regulates elder… Read more »

Nisa
Nisa
9 years ago

My husband and I are in the midst of struggling with our parents’ aging. I am also a gerontologic nurse practitioner working with elders in the community, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes, and worked previously as a geriatric care manager. You’d think that would help me, and it does, but there is so much emotion when caring for one’s own parents. I suggest you look into professional care management services. These can be found through your Area Agency on Aging, many local groups such as Jewish Family Services, and if your parent’s income is low enough, and her needs… Read more »

jessie
jessie
9 years ago

My grandfather was a supreme court judge, and when he died, everyone assumed that his will would be (1) easy to find, and (2) airtight. Not so. Had we not been a very close family, the state of my grandfather’s legal affairs would have very problematic. Make sure you’ve asked where the documents are, at the very least. Be prepared for your parent(s in Shauna’s case) may not want to have these conversations either. That’s hard, but forcing them leaves you both feeling guilty and sad. If that happens, continue to keep communication open but start making plans financially to… Read more »

Gail Steffen
Gail Steffen
9 years ago

I have never commented before but this one hits close to home. Since March 2010 my husband and I have been assisting my very ill father and my mother who is his primary caretaker. All of the challenges that Mr. Roth explained above exist but in addition I am located in Chicago and my parents are in St. Louis and none of my siblings are close. We have taken over all of their financials. They have wills, durable power of attorney and livings wills established which is good. The single most amazing discovery to me since March and through this… Read more »

SupportingParents
SupportingParents
9 years ago

I am in a similar situation and wish I had some advice for you but I was actually about to write in this week seeking advice. I’m 30 and live at home so that I can care for my mother (who is in her 60s and terminally ill due to a medical mistake), as well as my grandmother who is 94. My father works the night shift so I never see him but he is around during the day and I am there in the evenings. Aside from the remarks from family members about my “free ride” (yeah right) from… Read more »

xocolatlklc
xocolatlklc
9 years ago

I’ve thought about this issue a lot. My mom took care of my grandma. She lived about 2 hours away and drove over all the time, coordinated medical visits, etc. She is also fortunate enough to be self-employed in a role that allowed her to schedule as needed and still be a caretaker. This makes me nervous. With our cultural background, it is traditional for the eldest to take care of the parents. This is not always the case now, but my mom is the eldest, and she fulfilled her role quite admirably. I am the eldest, too, and there… Read more »

Crystal@BFS
9 years ago

I am so sorry. My husband and I haven’t had to deal with this yet, but everybody in these circumstances has my complete sympathy.

I can only imagine how difficult it would be to approach my mother if she was feeling so vulnerable…she’s a strong woman who will not age gracefully in my opinion and will not let anyone help her…

Julia
Julia
9 years ago

Jen gave great advice on contacting your local agency on aging, or whatever it’s called in your area. My mom was a geriatric nurse, my sister is an in-home care provider, and I took care of both of my grandmothers for the last several years of their lives. One thing we’ve all noticed is that family members are usually poor judges of an elderly person’s state. Hope, and history, seem to blind people to the ever-changing realities of aging and illness. What works for a few years, or months, will stop working and you’ll need a new solution. Care workers… Read more »

Rachel
Rachel
9 years ago

Thank you, JD, for sharing your experiences coping with a parent with a mental illness. I appreciate your openness–this is how we begin to break the stigma that surrounds mental illness and actually help each other. Have you tried reaching out to your local affiliate of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)? They may have resources for you that could help you meet the needs of your mother’s physical and mental disabilities. Many also have support groups for family members. As to Shauna’s question, I think this requires a frank, uncomfortable conversation with her parents regarding the future and how… Read more »

fairy dust
fairy dust
9 years ago

I’m already in a lousy mood this morning, so I probably shouldn’t even post about anything. My dad is almost 84 and has been steadily declining mentally for more than 9 years. Mom died about 14 years ago. Dad has done really well on his own and is pretty well set financially thanks to a lot of planning he and Mom did earlier on in their pre-retirement lives. Dad’s financial adviser, of all people, noticed Dad’s decline and contacted me about it a few years ago. Then, with my profuse thanks – because I really had no clue what to… Read more »

Pamela
Pamela
9 years ago

This is a question I have lived with for a long time. My mother-in-law, Barbara, was bipolar and my husband and I were responsible for helping her with financial and other support for the 20 years we’ve been married until her death from lung cancer last year. Here are just a few things I learned in the process that may be helpful to Shauna, JD, or your commenter, Supporting Parents. 1) Keep your personal finances separate from your parents as much as possible. Although you want to help, you are not responsible for someone else’s choices and you don’t want… Read more »

babysteps
babysteps
9 years ago

I have parents along the entire spectrum – mother passed away at 75, father 80/healthy/remarried/independent living campus, MIL & FIL healthy for late 80s but face aging issues and in own home almost 4hrs from nearest relative. completely agree with the plan ahead thoughts – you could use the health crisis of a family friend or even celebrity as an excuse to bring it up. Siblings may surprise you, when we did this with the healthy in-laws a few years ago, my social worker SIL had the most challenging time with it. Most of my comments may be more crisis-oriented… Read more »

Courtney Ostaff
Courtney Ostaff
9 years ago

My daughter is only three, and we’re in our thirties, but this is something that I’ve been aware of for a long time. In fact, a year after my daughter was born, we bought a house with my mother. My mother still works (22 days of 28!) but she’s getting older (58 this year). This is a great way for my daughter to know my mother, and I know that I can keep an eye on her as needed. I cook all her meals, help her with her cleaning, run her errands, etc. In my grandmother’s (97 this year!) case,… Read more »

Birdwell
Birdwell
9 years ago

All of the comments have excellent suggestions. Speaking from experience, I would say that the most critical part of this is a plan for backup assistance for YOU that protects your livelihood. If you know that you can be called away at a moment’s notice to assist your parent, you need to make sure that your work continues smoothly. You should have easily accessible/understood notes and work flow docs for current and pending projects that you can direct a co-worker to by phone or email. If you feel comfortable discussing your situation with your employer, work out a specific plan… Read more »

Kate
Kate
9 years ago

This was an interesting article. This is a difficult subject and I’m interested in everyone’s answers. My 87 year old mother (Happy Birthday today!) moved in with my husband and I a year ago. She had not been taking good care of herself, got run down and had a fall. It was determined that she didn’t need a nursing home, but could no longer live alone in her elderly housing apartment. She was also a six hour drive away and it was becoming apparent she couldn’t be alone. We live in an apartment , so we got a larger one,… Read more »

Steve Reilly
Steve Reilly
9 years ago

Get a trusted family attorney who can assist you in development of a plan. I am not an attorney, so this is an unbiased opinion. You need an understanding of certain legalities that I learned the hard way. Health directives are imperative and take strength to execute. Make sure the appointed person has the fortitude. Power of Attorney expires at death, and an estate executor takes over. Give thought to this assignment. The “oldest” isn’t always the most qualified. Best way around this is to make sure you are listed as an owner on all bank accounts. Consolidate bank accounts… Read more »

Liz
Liz
9 years ago

I’m in a similar situation; my mother is mentally ill and failing physically, and is flat broke. I’ve been caring for her in various ways since my early 20s. It’s been said above, but to reiterate, there are two major, major steps to take: 1) Gather a support system. Get other family to help. If she has friends, have them visit. Is she a member of a faith community? Get them to set up a rotation of visitors and helpers. This is not the time to be shy. ASK. 2) Look into what she’s entitled to from the government. I… Read more »

Crystal
Crystal
9 years ago

J.D.’s note: Hey, everybody: Crystal is looking for advice, too. If you have any tips for her situation, feel free to add them to the comments. My MIL had her kids very late in life- my husband (the youngest) is 35 while I’m 32 and my MIL is near 80. We are not financially stable with 2 kids under 5 and I’m terrified what will happen in the near future. His 2 older siblings (40 & 45) are severe meth addicts and as of now SHE at 80 is still caring for both of THEM in her home as they… Read more »

retirebyforty
retirebyforty
9 years ago

Hi JD,
Hope you guys can work this out. The Mrs’ grandma was in a similar situation and they arranged for her to live in an assisted living center. It was expensive, but I think it was worth it.
My parents are still doing pretty good. They live in Thailand so they have public health care. I helped purchase a rental condo for them so they can have a stable income to help pay the bills. I know it will get more difficult, but for now we are doing ok. Hopefully they can move in with us at some point.

Julie
Julie
9 years ago

Great post J.D. — very real and vulnerable. My husband and I are in a somewhat similar situation (some variables are different). My husband is an only child and his mother is a widow. Lives on her own, but no longer drives, so we are her main support for all the necessities of life. While we feel honored and blessed to care for her, we too find it overwhelming and stressful at times. We basically care for two houses and we still have young children at home. We are the sandwich generation. One thing we find hard is the lack… Read more »

Erika
Erika
9 years ago

Thanks to all for sharing their own stories and advice. I’m looking forward to more discussion on the topic. Whether your parents have planned financially for this or not, at some point the kids definitely need to be involved in long-term care decisions.

My parents have prepared fairly well financially and legally — they have at least a partial plan — but they live in another city and my brother and sister live even farther. Most of the responsibility will fall to me, I’m sure, and I don’t know what I’m going to do logistically when they need long-term care.

Adam
Adam
9 years ago

JD – you seem like a wonderful son to your mother. She is blessed to have you caring for her and worrying about her future. My own parents are as you describe in this post, they have no savings and no retirement plans. Both have remarried and both are in similar situations, but my dad will see a substantial inheritance from my grandparents and his wife is much younger than he is so I don’t worry too much about him. My mother and her husband on the other hand are a constant source of concern. I have more than once… Read more »

Carol
Carol
9 years ago

For anyone whose aging parents are veterans, don’t forget the “Aid and Attendance Benefit.” The application process is time consuming but it can be extra help for vets or spouses of vets. Check with the VA for specifics. It’s a benefit that is not well publicized.

Jen
Jen
9 years ago

I don’t have any advice, but I wanted to say thank you for this post. I hope you’ll do a followup (or several) that summarizes everything you learn, through advice or through experience. My last surviving grandparent has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimers, and has had a few scares lately. Luckily, she had 11 kids (half of whom live nearby), who alternate the responsibility of taking care of her. My dad has done her taxes/etc for years, so he he knows all the details about her finances, which makes a big difference. My gram is a very independent person, so… Read more »

Cindy G
Cindy G
9 years ago

I helped take care of both my parents during their last years, and without a doubt it was the most difficult job I have ever had. The dynamics of the role reversal can be draining, let alone the tasks involved. We were lucky that neither one required nursing homes nor they had more than adequate insurance coverage. My advice would be to ask questions. There are many services available to seniors that most simply are not aware of. What I can stress to anyone facing this task is to get things in order while your parents are of sound mind… Read more »

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