Caring for Aging Parents
As the American baby-boomer population has begun aging, the need for caregivers has never been greater. Often children will take on the role of caregiver for their aging parents. However, there are many considerations that should be considered when making this decision.
Are your parents in good health or are you noticing some changes in their daily life routines? Are there simple adjustments that can be made to their home to make it easier and safer for them to live there? If you decide to take on the role of full-time caregiver for your parent, can you afford the cost leaving the workforce? It is always beneficial to have constructive conversations about what your parent wants as they move towards their next phase in life, even though this may be tough for both parties. If you understand what your parent wishes for their future, it can help when making decisions on their behalf.
Look for the signs
It can be a challenge to realize a parent is struggling with day-to-day tasks, but there are some signs you can look for. It is important to ask questions and really listen to their responses. When observing them in their home environment, does everything look normal or do you notice some disorder? This can be a sign that they may be struggling to keep up with normal household tasks. If they are still driving and have mentioned any accidents or tickets they have received, it may be time that they rely on someone else to drive them. If you have noticed an increase in missed appointments, past due bills or re-telling of a story you recently heard this could be a sign that their memory capabilities are decreasing. If you notice bruising on their body, this may be a sign of decreased mobility. Sometimes seemingly easy things such as getting out of bed or taking a shower can become risky if mobility is becoming a struggle. Related to decreased mobility, you may notice poor hygiene if they are struggling with daily tasks. This could also be linked to unexplained weight changes, either increasing or decreasing. If they are less mobile, you may see weight gain with decreased physical activity or you may notice weight loss if they are unable to cook for themselves like they previously could.
Plan to safely age in place
According to AARP Research “76% of adults want to age in place2.” To make sure an aging parent is able to age in their own home, you should have open communication so you can understand their wishes and talk through putting a plan in place so they can do so safely. First, focus on safety and accessibility to ensure their home doesn’t contain any high risks. Doing things like adding extra lighting in hallways, dark rooms or outdoor areas, removing throw rugs to reduce tripping hazards, and moving heavier objects in cabinets to waist-height are easy fixes that can a make an aging parents’ home safer. If the home needs more than just a few easy updates then remodeling can be another option, but keep in mind the cost of a remodel and if it makes sense.
Talk with your parent and make a plan that will allow them to manage their daily life more easily. Some items to consider would be helping them manage their medications to ensure they are being taken appropriately, cooking healthy food and making sure they are eating enough during mealtime, and checking that cleaning is being done in the home to reduce the risks of falls or sickness.
Becoming a caregiver
If the decision is made to become a caregiver to an aging parent, there are some considerations that need to be thought through. It can often be emotionally demanding on both yourself and your family. You may need to decide if it would be best to share caregiver responsibilities with other family members.
It can become very time consuming, especially as your aging parent becomes frailer. Do you have the time to care for their needs or will you need to make some adjustments to your own life to make time? Does that mean leaving your job to commit to taking care of your aging parent? How will that affect you financially and is it even possible? If you are unable to leave your job, hiring outside help may be the right solution. Hiring outside help can range from around $18,000 per year for adult day care, to $50,000 per year for in-home care and over $100,000 per year for a room in a nursing home.3
Although becoming a full-time caregiver for a parent may come with a monetary and emotional expense, for some it is simply just the right choice. This choice allows you to ensure your parent is being cared for in the way you have discussed with them. The difficult decision to become a caregiver for an aging parent is one many of us wish we didn’t have to make, but it never hurts to start having those conversations today to see what options are available and work for each party involved.
- Binette, Joanne and Kerri Vasold, “2018 Home and Community Preferences: A National Survey of Adults Age 18-Plus,” AARP Research, August 2018, https://doi.org/10.26419/res.00231.001 4.
- “Cost of Care Survey 2019,” Genworth, 2019.
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