In 2002, my mother was diagnosed with rapid onset dementia. Less than a week later, my father suffered a stroke. In an instant, their plans for the future changed. So did mine.
As a financial advisor, I’ve counseled many of my clients through these challenging decisions. At the time, I had to also face them myself. Although the situation with my family continues to evolve, there are many things I’ve learned from this experience, not the least of which is to be forward thinking in your decisions.
The costs and who will pay them
Whether your parent moves into your home or you help find a suitable alternative, there will be costs involved. In an ideal situation, an existing long-term care policy, supplemented as needed by your parent’s savings, will be able to cover the majority of expenses. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. If your parent must rely on you for financial assistance, make sure you understand and are prepared to address any impact on your own financial security. Take time to identify other potential sources of income your parent has, including qualification for state assistance and if it makes sense to consider renting or selling his or her home. Also determine how other family members can contribute, either financially or as caregivers.
The level of care required
The amount of money available may be a determining factor in the type of care your parent receives. Be honest with yourself about how much care you can personally provide. If your mother or father moves in with you, will you be able to provide the appropriate level of supervision, assistance with care and medication, rides to medical appointments and more? Do you have the time, energy and willingness to take on these responsibilities?
The emotional roller coaster
There are no two ways about it: When it comes to taking care of an aging parent, you’re entering a very emotional territory—for you, your parent and other family members. Adult children typically experience feelings of worry, guilt, loss and sadness. You may also be frustrated by a parent’s lack of cooperation or combativeness, failing health, the prospect of dying or by your extended family’s lack of involvement. Be patient and respectful of one another and, by all means, don’t rush into the decision-making process.
Kirsten R. King is a long-term care advisor based in Atlanta.