How Should I Take Care of My Aging Parent?

As a large portion of the U.S. population grows older and life expectancy continues to increase, many caregivers in their 40s and 50s are finding themselves a part of the “sandwich” generation, or those who are often caring for both their children and their aging parents.
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Most children will become caregivers for their aging parents. Puget Sound Business Journal’s recent article entitled “Tips for caring for aging loved ones” reports that more than one in five Americans (21.3%) are caregivers. The U.S. Census Bureau also estimates that the number of people age 65 and older will nearly double to 95 million by 2060. It’s estimated that 70% of adults who survive to 65 will develop a need for long-term care and support services before they die. This need can be caused by accidents, sudden medical events like strokes, chronic illness, or dementia.

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All of this responsibility can present an unforeseen mental, physical, and even financial toll on caregivers—many of whom are working full time, in addition to providing care for their loved ones. The article provides some tips to plan for the future care of loved ones, or if you’re currently providing care, some guidance on how to create a structure around responsibilities.

First, be realistic about your current responsibilities and finances. What you might want to do for a loved one may not align completely with what you’re able to do. You should then identify your support team, which is a group of people who can work together, like any siblings or other family members.

Next, talk to your immediate family, especially your partner and make certain that your caregiving desires are on the same page. Then look at long-term planning. In some cases, caring for a loved one who falls ill or needs significant care may require you to take time away from work. That can result in a loss of income or a potential loss of medical benefits. Determine how that will affect your retirement contributions or your overall retirement plan.

Explore the options with your employer and see how flexible your work schedule can be. Determine if taking time off to care for an aging loved falls under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Consider the type of care your loved one needs today and what they potentially might need tomorrow. Think about whether you’re in a position to provide that care, or if you need to get help from siblings, family members or friends.

Finally, consider what documents you might need to execute. This may include estate planning documents, such as a will, a health care surrogate, and durable power of attorney for financial matters. Now is the time to speak with your parents openly about their financial and personal matters. Take a look at this article for helpful suggestions.  Ask an experienced estate planning attorney or elder law attorney to ensure that the right documents are in place.

Reference: Puget Sound Business Journal (Sep. 1, 2021) “Tips for caring for aging loved ones”

 

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