A growing number of American adults these days face a unique financial challenge: caring for an aging parent. Nearly 10 million adults over the age of 50 provide care or financial support for aging parents, and their ranks have swelled significantly in recent years, according to a recent study by MetLife.
“I see more people taking care of their aging parents,” says Marty Scoll, vice president, Key Client Solutions Group, Wells Fargo Advisors. “And with the economy in the shape it’s in, people can’t necessarily afford the care solutions that they might have a few years ago.”
The cost of providing care for a loved one – whether an ailing spouse or elderly parent – can be daunting. It includes not only medical expenses such as in-home or nursing home care, but also lost income due to the time commitment required. In fact, the MetLife study estimates that caregiver responsibilities for the average person age 50 and older can result in more than $300,000 in lost wages and benefits.
The good news: There may be ways to provide care for an aging parent or loved one without jeopardizing your finances now or in the future. Here are some strategies to consider:
Talk to your employer. Caring for a family member can be a 24-hour-a-day responsibility, making it difficult to balance the demands of a full-time job. Consider discussing the situation with your employer as early as possible. “You may be able to work out a much better situation,” Scoll says.
For example, you may be able to negotiate a more flexible work arrangement that allows you to take time away from your tasks during the workday to accompany your ailing spouse or parent to doctors’ appointments. Also consider discussing telecommuting options: Working from home one or two days a week may help you stay productive while allowing you to be on call for issues with an aging parent or ailing spouse.
Review your parent’s finances. While your parent is still healthy, sit down with your parent to discuss his or her financial situation, from retirement savings and monthly Social Security benefits to current healthcare premiums and housing costs. This move can give you a better handle on just how much financial support you may be expected to provide. Your financial advisor can help you weigh your options, and may be able to serve as a neutral third party during conversations with parents about financial matters.
Your parent’s financial situation may even make her eligible for certain benefits: For instance, if your parent’s annual ncome is relatively low, you may be able to claim him or her as a dependent on your tax return, which can help defray the cost of care. Talk with your tax advisor before doing so to ensure your situation qualifies.
Meanwhile, make sure your parent has an up-todate estate plan. In particular, review financial powers of attorney and healthcare proxies; Be sure you understand what is included in these documents and an appropriate person is named who has the authority to make critical financial or healthcare decisions if your parent becomes incapacitated. “They key is to address these estate planning issues when your parent is still in control and can be clear about his or her wishes,” Scoll points out.
Get (free) help. If your parent lives with you and needs periodic care during the day, hiring an in-home nurse can be expensive – and isn’t likely to be covered by Medicare. One alternative is to check with organizations in your community, such as religious groups and local social services agencies that may provide free or low-cost care or companionship for elderly adults. Also check with other family members, who may be able to participate in your loved one’s care – and provide scheduled breaks for you.
Don’t allow caring for aging adults to become a crisis – talk o your loved ones about their wishes well in advance. Discuss what will happen when they reach the age when they need additional help caring for themselves. “It’s a good conversation to have,” says Scoll. “And the earlier you have that conversation, the better off you’ll all be.”
This article was written by Wells Fargo Advisors and provided courtesy of Todd Alexander, The Alexander Financial Group, in Mc- Connellsburg.
Investment products and services are offered through Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network LLC (WFAFFN), and Member SIPC. the Alexander financial Group is a separate entity from WFAFFN.