Create a Plan to Help Care for Aging Parents

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Several years ago, I received a frantic call from my wife.

“Can you get the kids from school? Something’s wrong with Dad! Please hurry!”

If you’ve had a similar conversation, you’ve felt the squeeze of the sandwich generation.

According to the Pew Research Center, one in every eight Americans between 40 and 60 is raising a family and caring for an aging parent or relative. It’s a frightening thought, as the U.S. Census Bureau predicts that the number of Americans age 65 or older will double in the next 15 years.

Have a Plan for Helping Your Parents

I’ve written many times in this column about the importance of having a tangible plan and how it can be crucial to your financial success. The best plan for helping parents is, well, having a plan. Children often know very little about their parents’ finances. Money conversations between spouses can be difficult; conversations between children and parents can be nearly impossible.

Look for opportunities to glean pieces of the financial puzzle. Ask questions. “We were thinking of updating some of our legal documents. Who did you and Dad work with?” “Do you still bank at Central Bank?”

Be Able to Take Charge

Consider speaking with your parents and a qualified attorney about preparing legal documents aimed at carrying out your parents’ wishes when they can no longer make decisions for themselves.

Options include:

  • Durable power of attorney can allow you authority to make specified financial and medical decisions on another person’s behalf.
  • Wills provide direction for managing and distributing your parents’ estate after they pass away.
  • Living will/advance medical directives outline their wishes regarding medical care.

Long-Term Care: The $73,000 Question

According to Genworth Financial’s 2012 Cost of Care study, the average annual cost for a long-term care facility is $73,000. Long-term care needs can wreak havoc on an otherwise sound retirement plan.

Have the conversation (early) with parents about whether they have long-term care insurance or have set aside sufficient savings to cover the costs. If Mom and Dad are younger and still in relatively good health, they may be able to reposition assets to provide funds for this likely expense.

It Takes a Community

Be an advocate for your parents, and seek out assistance. Talk to local social service agencies or government bodies that focus on the elderly. Make sure your parents’ are receiving all the benefits to which they may be entitled, such as Social Security, Medicare and veterans benefits.

See if community groups may be able to assist with meals or care. A great place to start is the U.S. Administration on Aging website: www.eldercare.gov. There, you’ll be directed to a treasure trove of local senior services.

Take Care of Yourself

Don’t forget to take care of No. 1 – you! As much as you want to help your parents, don’t put saving for retirement and college on the back burner. It’s crucial that you and your family stay on track for your financial success.

Make sure that your plan is in place for a secure future. Talk to a trusted adviser and share your concerns about both your immediate family and your extended family. An adviser can help make sure you stay on course and may provide you with a sense of comfort when you feel yourself squeezed in the sandwich generation.

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