Mom and dad took care of you, at some point, you may need to do the same for them.
By 2050, one-fifth of the U.S. population will be 65 or older and the number of people 85 or older will grow the fastest over the next few decades, constituting 4% of the population by 2050, or 10 times its share in 1950, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Many adult children will grapple with what to do with mom and dad as their health declines. The instinct is to give all that love and nurturing that was showered on you right back to them by deciding to bring them into your home. It is estimated that adult children are providing about 70% of the care for their non-institutionalized elderly parents.
For sure it's a big decision, with emotional and financial implications.
Here's what to think about.
Without question, having a parent at home can make financial sense, when compared to pricey assisted living facilities. There is also peace of mind when you can be close at hand for them and you know what kind of care they are receiving.
But do not be deluded, it is a big deal. If one or both parent moves in, everything changes. Not just financially, like perhaps having to make modifications to your home, an increase in the grocery bill and more. According to a recent Merrill Lynch Retirement study, six in 10 people age 50-plus are providing financial support to family members, averaging $14,900 among people with less than $5 million in investable assets. However, the vast majority of people 50-plus have never budgeted and prepared for providing financial support to family members, therein lies the problem, it can be disruptive to your own retirement plans and financial health.
Caring for an aging parent in your home also has great emotional impact. It is like bringing a baby home from the hospital. The care required is constant and taxing. You still have your demanding job, you may also have children in the house who need you as well. Seeing your parent in a position where they are dependent on you and their health declining, takes an emotional toll.
The decision to bring mom and dad into your home should not be made hastily, if you have the luxury of time. What will it take to make the arrangement work? Research how much having an aide to come to your home while you're at work will cost, how much modifications to your home will cost, among other things. Will you need to cut back your hours on your job, and if so, what might the impact be? What's your strategy for how you will maintain work-life balance? Think this through. Get counsel from a financial advisor and experts that work with the elderly.
"Keep financial accounts separate, but set up a 'powerful' power of attorney," says financial advisor Steve Cagnassola.
Set up a "powerful" power of attorney. Most POAs are set up as powerless, meaning they only allow for minimum gifting or limited transactions, says Cagnassola. If the parents are in need of care, then using that powerful POA, the children should move the parents' assets into their names (children's) so that they can use mom and dad's money to pay for their medical care. "This way, the children now are paying for more than 50% of the care of someone else and they can receive a sizable tax deduction, which a lot of people need right now," says Cagnassola.
One family's tale
Dan Weedin and his wife Barb brought his mother into their home after his father's death three years ago.
"At that point, even with the knowledge that she was at the initial point of frontal lobe dementia, we felt we could best take care of her ourselves, rather than at an assisted living facility," says Weedin.
Their children were away at college so it was just Weedin, his wife and their two dogs. "I worked from home as a consultant, but still needed help," say Weedin. They hired someone to be her companion between 7:30 in the morning until 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, which was about one-third the cost of an assisted living facility. Evenings and weekends they provided care.
Her dementia worsened and within two years, "It became evident that her care was over our pay grade and we moved her into a memory care unit. Her moods and behavior had become much more inconsistent and challenging, as had her mobility."
What were the biggest challenges? "The entire time she was with us, she used a walker. Fortunately, her need to use stairs was limited, however, to enter or exit the house, it was a requirement. As she stayed longer, taking her out even to get fresh air was a challenge. She became increasingly unsteady even with the walker, so keeping an eye on her whenever she was on the move became imperative," says Weedin.
As her mobility decreased, their concern for her movement at night increased. She had her own bathroom across the hall from her room, but they needed to keep their door open to hear when she went so they could make she traversed the path well.
Then there were the mood swings. "Someone who doesn't have dementia may not have this issue, but for us, it was real. We had to deal with often dramatic mood swings, especially in the evening as Mom suffers from 'sundowners'"
Diminished too, was the freedom to get away on their own. "Getting a babysitter for children is easy. Getting one for an 87 year-old with dementia, not so much. We were fortunate to have a cadre of friends outside of her regular service that could help us, especially on short notice."
After his experience with his mom, he offers advice.
Find a support group. "We didn't do this when she was living with us and have since she moved to memory care. We wish we would have done this before. It's highly important to talk, discuss and share experiences and ideas with others in the same boat. You usually find out that your issues are the same as everyone else's."
Find "alone" time. Go on dates with your spouse or significant other. Even small things like going to the movies or dinner are important. Do your best to avoid talking about your parents.
Don't deny your feelings. At times, you will need to vent and talk about the situation. "Holding back for fear of hurting the other's feelings isn't good. It's a team effort," says Weedin.
Make your home safer. "This is huge. You may need to add things like grab bars, change flooring, add a ramp, or other things to make access to the home easier for them. Find a professional architect that deals with these issues to help make the best and most cost-effective choices."
Know when to say when. "Know when it's time to move them. We wavered shortly and then it became apparent we couldn't do it any longer. Honestly appraise the situation."