Five Ways to Avoid Having to Financially Support Aging Parents


When parents age and need care, adult children often step in to assist. But what happens when parents need more care and don’t have the money to pay for outside assistance? Learn five ways to avoid having to financially support aging parents so that you can care for yourself and your family. 


Elderly Parents Will Eventually Need Help

Unless you have spent considerable time with your parents and are aware of how they manage their finances and resources, it is possible you may end up contributing financially to their retirement and healthcare needs when your parents age and become ill. This support significantly affect your retirement planning not to mention your time, family relationships, and your career.

While adult children are generally supportive of caring for aging parents and many would not change anything about the support provided, with proper planning this support does not have to negatively affect your money or your life. 

No One Likes to Talk About Not Having Enough Money

Early discussions about care for aging parents are imperative. Discussing plans for the care of sick parents is a difficult subject that many families put off when other priorities exist like raising children or saving for college.

However not planning for long-term care often results in crises and stress later in life. Not only for parents but for adult children shocked to learn that parents did not plan appropriately.  

Middle-Age Health Impacts Care Needs Later in Life

How well your parents cared for themselves when they were younger will have a direct effect on their ability to age with or without significant health issues.  After age 65 a stay in a nursing home is common whether it be for short-term rehabilitation or to recover from a medical emergency. 

Older adults have excessively negative memories of nursing homes because their parents or older family members may have been placed in “a home”.  The skilled facilities of today have come a long way in dispelling this old impression.

However, many people still do not wish to live the last years of their lives in a nursing home.  Many older adults even hesitate to consider retirement communities or assisted living.

Don’t Make Promises You Can’t Keep

Elderly parents often ask children never to place them in a home. While agreeing to this request may seem simple and practical, if you have no caregiving experience you have no idea of the commitment of making this promise. 

Adult children see parents as the authority.  However, depending on the level of a parent’s education and experience, adult children may actually be more of an authority. 

Children are often better educated than their parents and more familiar or at least aware of financial planning and insurance products. I was surprised when I learned after my mother’s death that she never knew how to balance a checkbook.  She was just good at making sure there was always enough money in the account to pay the bills.

Five Ways to Avoid Having to Financially Support Aging Parents

Here are five steps you can take to avoid financially supporting aging parents.  If you are already at the point of crisis, many of the discussion points still apply. 

However, you may have to make other hard choices about finances and the type and level of care a parent is able to receive.

1. Have a discussion with parents about available finances  

Many parents feel this to be an invasion of privacy but they might understand if you tell them that you are making your own long-term plan and want to make sure that they are equally prepared for retirement.  It is likely that they are not and you would prefer not to have surprises when parents need care.

2. Discuss monthly household budgets

Have a realistic discussion of available finances and the costs of long-term care.  One year in assisted living averages $40,000; one year in skilled nursing averages $72,000.  If they lack this level of resources, then the discussion falls to Medicaid, the government assistance program for low-income older adults.  Consult a care advocate who is able to explain Medicaid and how services are accessed.

3.  Identify expected monthly retirement income 

Do funds exist to pay for unplanned hospitalization or skilled nursing facility co-pays?  Ask how your parents plan to pay for care at home or in a care community based on their level of financial resources. 

Consider long-term care insurance if monies are available to pay for premiums and your parents are healthy enough to qualify for a plan.  Consider buying long-term care insurance for yourself.

4. Discuss life insurance if this has not already been purchased

  A life insurance policy can mean the difference between having a paid-off mortgage for the surviving spouse, in addition to paying for funeral arrangements and paying off other bills. Healthcare expenses can skyrocket when a sick spouse or aging parents needs care.

The surviving spouse should not be financially penalized for unexpected health issues. Often the caregiver spouse becomes ill and needs care. Make sure money is available to provide for the spouse that lives on. 

5. Follow through with finalizing a plan

Take your parents to a financial planner. Invite insurance specialists and care advocates into the home to discuss plans.  Leave no detail aside and no plans unmade.

Put options in writing including the level of participation you expect to have when caregiving needs arise knowing that situations may change over time.

And most of all, don’t be a naive caregiver thinking that you will never be in the situation of your aging parents. An unexpected accident could happen tomorrow, placing you in a dire situation.

Caregivers Must Plan for Future Care Needs

As you help your parents plan ahead, make your own financial and legal plans. And if you are married, plan for the spouse who will be the caregiver and live on after the first spouse to become sick passes away. 

© 2012, 2013, 2022Pamela D. Wilson.  All Rights Reserved.

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