Over forty million families are acting as primary caregivers for their aging parents. This generation of adults in their 40’s and 50’s is called the “sandwich generation” because they are caring for their children and their aging parents at the same time. The number of family care givers will continue to rise as our aging population grows (there will be approximately 84 million people over age 65 by the year 2050). So how do you prepare for the likelihood of caring for your parents?
You must be proactive and have a plan.
Where Will They Live?
Historically both gender and age have played a part in deciding who takes care of your parents when they need to be cared for. Instead of this antiquated way of thinking, siblings should consider who is the best fit in terms of time, location, and finances. Before the family is in crisis mode, you should sit down as a group and talk about who and how you will care for your parents. Ideally you would want to have this discussion when your parents are in their late 60’s or early 70’s and are still mentally and physically capable. Talk about the financial and geographical issues and who has the time to help. Perhaps as important, find out how your parents feel about their long-term care. For example, do they want to stay in their home, move in with one of the siblings, or go to a facility when the need arises?
Who Will Pay For It?
Caring for aging parents can be very expensive. If your parents have purchased long term care insurance, that can greatly defer the costs of the necessary care; unfortunately, most Americans do not have long term care coverage. If your parents do not have that kind of coverage, you’ll need to have an understanding of their finances and what resources are available to pay for their care. Check what assets they have to provide for their care and what each sibling could potentially contribute. Talk to your advisor about your situation—you may be able to claim your parents as dependents if you are paying for more than half of their daily care.
Can Medicaid Help?
If financial resources are scarce from both your siblings and parents, you will want to make sure you understand the benefits Medicaid can provide. Many assume incorrectly that Medicare will pay for long term care. It does not. Medicaid finances 40% of nursing home spending nationwide and is administered by the states; it will cover care at home, in the community, or in a facility. Most Medicaid long term care services assist those who struggle with activities of daily living (e.g., bathing, dressing, using the toilet, eating). While having too much income or assets can disqualify you from receiving benefits, most states will allow you to spend down your excess income on care. Families should look to see what the income and asset limits are for their specific state.
A great web tool for information on specific state Medicaid rules can be found on www.familyassets.com. Another great resource for families is www.agingcare.com.This website can help you identify local programs that provide information and services for older adults.
Caring for aging parents can be very stressful. Plan ahead by having the discussion with your parents and siblings before a crisis arises. Know what assets are available to care for your parents or if they have long term care insurance which can defray some of the cost. Research Medicaid eligibility and local options for care if assets are scarce. Walking through this with your parents may be hard, but it can also be one of the greatest gifts you can give to the person who cared for you when you needed it the most.
Copyright: galitskaya / 123RF Stock Photo