5 Tips on Caring for Your Aging Parents Without Going Broke

man at cafe; photo by Jeff Sheldon on Unsplash

"Once a man, twice a child.” People from the Caribbean know exactly what that means. It’s the inevitable circle of life. Humans begin life as helpless children and later, we again become dependent on others for assistance. In our forties and fifties, we will all see our parents aging and becoming more dependent. Then before we know it, the tables become completely turned and we begin to assume the role of caretakers.

How can you help without going broke? Here are five tips.

First, understand their financial situation

No matter what, caring for elderly parents will cost money. You will need to find out the amount of flexible funds they have at their disposal - Social Security payments, retirement money, savings, etc. You will need to think about future care, medicine and supplies. More importantly, you must consider where your parents will live in the near future and how much it will cost.

Get professional help

Most people have no experience in caring for the elderly and are unaware of the complexities of the task.  Fortunately, professional guidance is available in the United States.  Consider getting a geriatric care manager to assess the situation.  These professionals work with families to determine the best course of action in terms of housing, legal services and other assistance.  A good resource is the Aging Life Care Association (http://www.aginglifecare.org/).  You will also need to find an  attorney to guide you regarding a living will, healthcare proxy and other legal issues on your parents’ behalf.

Learn about Medicare and Medicaid

Most younger people assume that the standard programs will cover an elderly person’s healthcare when the time comes.  They don’t.  Medicare for instance, in most situations, will over cover hospital, medical and prescription drug costs.  But it will not cover nursing home stays.  Medicaid will do so, but only for people who have exhausted most of their assets.  It is often a shocker for most children when they learn the limitations of these programs.

Get the family involved

If you have siblings or other willing family members, don’t try to do it on your own. Enlist help from other relatives to help ensure that it’s a family effort.

Make your own retirement plan

Consider your own financial situation carefully.  How will your future be affected by your new role as a caretaker? Are you able to live comfortably if you are not able to work?  Planning for yourself is just as important as planning for your parent.