Discuss Your Parents' Needs for the Future
If you're like an increasing number of Americans, you are already learning what it means to be part of the "Sandwich Generation"-adults caring for their children and for their aging parents. Sitting down with your parents and siblings to ask tough questions about what your parents want and what they can afford can be crucial to a family's well-being. Answering all these questions when your parents are still in good health may seem unnecessary, but it can help to know their wishes and needs for the future.
Paying Out of Pocket
You may not be entirely comfortable asking your parents about money, but when it comes to their long-term care, this discussion is helpful. You will want to know what they can afford and what you might be able to help pay for. For example, can they afford to pay for an assisted-living facility if needed? It may come as a surprise, but Medicare does not cover the cost of an extended stay in an assisted-living or nursing facility. If your parents prefer to stay in their home and they need only minor assistance, can they afford to pay for a health care worker or other aide to visit regularly? Don't forget, there may be upfront costs to making your parents' home safer and more accessible for them. Do they have a first floor bathroom and bedroom? Should grab bars be installed in the bathrooms or hallways? Would your parents benefit from a personal emergency response system in case something happens and they are alone?
Expect the Unexpected
If your parents are still in good health, it's a good idea to look into long-term care insurance. These policies are not for everyone, but they can be helpful for families who can't afford private care on their own. The upside of long-term care? The premiums are generally locked in at the age of enrollment, and the policy is renewable as long as you pay the premiums. But of course, there are downsides. If you stop making premium payments, the money you have paid in is lost. Also, this may seem obvious, but it's wise to purchase the insurance through a reputable company. Even then, the policy may not cover what your parents need, such as better nursing home care than what Medicaid would cover. Of course, while your parents are healthy, they may consider moving into a continuing care retirement community. Typically, seniors can buy or rent an apartment in one of these communities, which guarantees care in the facility's nursing units if that becomes necessary.
One Big, Happy Family
Some parents (and their adult children) may cringe at the idea of living together under one roof again. But if the idea appeals to you, having your parents move in is one way to care for them as they get older. While some days it might seem to be more than you can handle, creating a multigenerational environment can be a great thing for all involved. After all, it not only gives your parents and your children a chance to know each other better, but it can ease your burden both emotionally and economically. In fact, tax breaks may be available, depending on your parents' income and what you contribute financially to their care while they live with you.