It’s becoming increasingly common for adults to become caregivers for their parents in their later years. There is even growth among the Millennial generation, where those born in the 80s and have only recently started their careers are taking time away to help their parents. The Millennials, facing extreme student loan debt, an unstable job market and expensive health care, already have a significant financial load. Caring for a parent only puts additional downward force on that load. Anyone who is planning to care for elderly parents should consider some financial strategies to help make things easier.
Considerations Before Deciding to Care for Your Elderly Parents
You probably know your parents as well as anyone. You know whether they are proud or easy-going. Yet, you may not know how things have changed for them. You may want to help; however, they may not be ready to accept. Before even broaching the subject, look for signs that they may be struggling (financially or otherwise).
- Check the fridge and cupboards. Does it appear they are buying less food than usual?
- Are they taking their medication when they should and at the proper dosage?
- Is their home or apartment in any disrepair?
These could be signs that they are in some financial stress. You may also want to look for common signs of the onset of dementia or any physical ailments you haven’t witnessed previously. If you see any of these signs, it may be time to talk.
Now, it’s time to consider strategies regarding how you’re going to manage the responsibilities you’re about to take on.
1. Don’t Fear Government Assistance
If you’re already well-off financially, this won’t be an issue for you. However, a dearth of finances may soon become one if you are taking care of two families. Government assistance may have a negative connotation among some people you know. Yet, you’re undertaking a massive responsibility if you’re eligible, the government may help. You or your parents may qualify for:
- The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits
- The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANIF) benefits
- Veterans benefits
- Help with utility bills and other services from your local government
- Low-cost, subsidized cellphone service for seniors
The eligibility requirements for receiving some assistance is need-based. You might not qualify with your current, three-person household. However, if that household expands to five, things may change.
2. Make a Budget
You need to have an idea of what you can spend as well as what you need to spend. There’s likely to be a conflict between those two figures. You may be tempted to dip into any savings you may have, and that’s okay as long as you aren’t forced into depleting your savings.
3. Avoid New Debt
You are probably going to be relying on credit for some expenses, but it would be wise to avoid increasing your debt levels with new cards or personal loans. However, if the need arises, check out a local credit union for a low-interest option tailored to your needs.
4. Open a Savings Account
Currently, savings accounts aren’t yielding the kind of dividends your parents may be familiar with; however, it’s good to put money away and let it grow. Online accounts may yield higher dividends because of the lack of overhead.
Check out the Ultimate Cheat Sheet on Saving
5. Seek Help From Your Employer
Some employers offer paid family leave for people caring for a sick or elderly person. It would only be temporary; however, you would be able to take a little time off to care for your parents and plan your next move.
6. Secure Some Help
Your immediate family and siblings, or even extended family, may be affected by your decision to become the caregiver to your parents. You will need to talk to them to see if they want to help financially or otherwise or if they have objections to what you are doing. You may also consider talking to a financial advisor to see whether you are making as sound decisions with your money as you are in becoming a caregiver to your parents.