As Baby Boomers start to retire, there are probably a lot of things on their minds: where they might move, a few nice vacations, new ways to fill their time. But the heaviest thought on their mind is probably their aging parents. By now, the parents of Boomers are aging to the point that they may need assisted care, or may be dealing with serious illnesses. Their parents may be reaching the ends of their lives, and it’s important to plan for that accordingly.
Unfortunately, these decisions aren’t always easy to talk about. And in the case of finances, some parents may be running low on their retirement money. This may mean that they are coming to rely more and more on their children to take care of them as they age. This can cause a lot of stress, not only for the child but for the parent as well.
If you’re a Boomer, and your aging parent is beginning to rely on you for care, decisions, and money, there are a few important things you should know.
There Are Several Long Term Care Options
Long term care and nursing homes are great options for parents in their golden years. It’s not usually feasible for a child to take time off work in order to take care of a parent full time, so either in-home care or nursing homes become a necessity.
But these don’t come cheap. For parents that need to stay in nursing homes, you could be looking at almost $90,000 (or more!) per year. Insurance may help cover some of those costs, but for the rest, there should be a big nest egg that contributes to those costs. And depending on how old the parent is, they too might be in risk of running out of their own retirement money, making it even more difficult to find the money to pay for it.
Other long term care options, like an in-home nurse, are great alternatives, but these also don’t run cheap when you consider your costs. An in-home nurse can cost between $42,000-$72,000 annually, depending on your location.
If you suspect that you may need to put a parent into a long-term nursing home, it’s a great idea to create a plan for saving. Planning in advance can give families an opportunity to protect the savings you already have, while figuring out how to invest for your future needs.
Dementia and Other Illnesses Can Weigh You Down
Dementia is a debilitating disease that is difficult to care for, especially if the child of the sick parent is still working. Often, it requires a full time caregiver, if not moving the parent into a special facility. Both of these costs can add up quickly. If you plan quickly after the diagnosis, there’s an opportunity to get the parent’s input while they’re still lucid. But sometimes, what the parent wants isn’t always the most feasible course of action.
Because you feel like you’re working against the clock when a parent has one of these debilitating illnesses, it can make things even more stressful for you as their caregiver and child. Know that there are organizations, agencies, non-profits, and eldercare attorneys who can all help you make the right decisions for your parent. Do some research, talk to a few, and see who can help in the most meaningful way.
Your Best Bet is to Plan Ahead
It’s difficult enough to save for your own retirement—it gets all the more complicated when you factor in how much it might cost to help your aging parent.
If your parents are still lucid and capable of taking care of themselves, talk to them candidly about their wishes and their finances. Consider speaking with a financial planner who can help make sure that—if and when the time comes—the right amount of money is there to help.
If the money is already looking scarce, look into your options. For example, a life settlement may be a good option. A life settlement is the sale of a person’s life insurance policy to a third-party investor. In a life settlement, the policy’s owner transfers the ownership of that policy in exchange for an immediate cash payment from the buyer. Candidates for life settlements are typically 70 or older, with a life insurance policy that has a "face value" (death benefit) of more than $100,000. If the policy’s owner isn’t of sound mind, the Power of Attorney is able to make the decision on their behalf.
Financial issues with aging parents can be very stressful. It’s important to remember that there are options to consider and many people and organizations that exist to help you make the best decisions for you and for your aging parent.
Leo LaGrotte is founder and chief executive officer of Life Settlement Advisors.