Is Your Elderly Parent Moving In? It Might Cost You

Decisions about providing care for an aging parent are by no means easy — or cheap. Make it easier by asking some key questions and discussing them with your parents ahead of time

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Many people my age struggle with the best way to care for their aging parents — and my husband and I are no exception. My friends, colleagues and I all agonize as we debate whether our parent(s) should move in with us or enter an assisted-living facility or nursing home. These are complex decisions that have emotional, physical and financial costs — and no easy answers.

My mother is healthy now, but one fact is clear: if she moves into our three-story home someday, we’ll need to make some changes to our house. And while we would welcome her company, making our home easy for her to get around in could be very expensive.

Recently, my husband and I decided to speak candidly with my mom about her own plans for the future. We were motivated to broach the issue after talking to my friend Victoria, who went through a similar experience with her mother. Victoria’s elderly mom moved in with her after her father’s death, but in order to care for her — Victoria’s mom was wheelchair bound and needed assistance with some daily activities — Victoria had to remodel her home.

(MORE: When Dementia Derails Your Parent’s Finances)

Victoria made the smart decision to do some advance planning together with her parents, talking about options and putting a plan in place, even before her father died. That made the financial aspects of remodeling her home and caring for her mother a lot easier. After Victoria’s father died, she and her mom sold her parents’ home as they had decided. They then used the proceeds to add a bedroom and a bathroom to the main floor of Victoria’s house.

Victoria’s mother lived with her family for six years before she passed away, and they treasure the experience. Victoria reflects that “one of the nicest things we could offer our son was to have time with his grandmother — and it was a joy to her.” She says remodeling their home to make a room for her mother was one of the best decisions they made.

But it wasn’t always easy. The amount of care Victoria’s mother needed increased over time and proved challenging. Chasing after her toddler consumed much of Victoria’s energy, and caring for her mother was often just as exhausting. Navigating Medicare and understanding her mother’s medical needs was complicated and taxing. But as she watched her other friends make tough decisions for their elderly parents, Victoria was grateful for the preparations her family had made in advance.

(MORE: Alternatives to the Nursing Home for Aging or Ailing Parents)

Victoria’s experience inspired me to ask more questions about what my husband and I — and all families in similar situations — might need to consider. Here are some of the essentials:

What are my parent’s plans and desires?
It can be tough to talk to our “silent generation” parents about money. But if we’re going to care for them in the future, having an idea of their financial situation and desires for medical care will save time and headaches. Victoria’s parents had good insurance and some assets in place, which made her circumstance easier. But even better, she and her parents made many decisions together, and she knew she was carrying out their wishes — which was important to everyone.

Do I need to add on, remodel or just renovate?
If a parent is going to move into your home, it’s crucial to consider these three things: privacy, care and safety issues. Ask yourself if you need a major overhaul, or if minor changes will suffice. Is there outside access to your parent’s room? Is it wheelchair accessible? Do the bathrooms have handicapped-accessible toilets, showers and tubs with grab bars? Research the costs well in advance so you won’t be reeling with sticker shock if your parent needs to move in on short notice.

What kind of insurance coverage do my parents have?
In addition to understanding your parent’s financial reality, it’s critical that you talk to your parents about their insurance coverage. Do they have long-term care insurance? What’s covered? What Medicare or Medicaid coverage do they have in place? Determine how your parent’s medical costs will be paid, and speak with them about where the funds might come from if extra costs accrue beyond what insurance covers.

What will this cost me?
It’s imperative to do some research before helping your parent decide what may be the best living arrangement physically, emotionally and financially. If your parent wants to stay in their own home, recognize what the long-term cost might be of hiring an in-home caregiver. It can vary greatly depending on where you live. The amount paid by insurance for different arrangements also varies depending on the type and amount of coverage.

Don’t assume that the lowest cost option will be providing care yourself. A recent survey by AgingCare.com indicated that an estimated 34 million Americans are personally providing care for older family members, and that 34% of those caregivers are spending $300 or more a month of their own money. Consider how this may affect your financial obligations and goals, and plan accordingly.

(MORE: Kids and Money: Is It O.K. to Play Financial Favorites?)

As for my own mother, she said she would like to stay in her own home and live independently as long as possible. But we’re all feeling more prepared to face whatever the future may bring because we’ve had — and continue to have — these discussions. If you’ve faced a similar situation, what tips or advice would you offer others? Tell us in the comments below.

De Baca is vice president of wealth strategies at Ameriprise Financial. See more of her health and money columns here.

13 comments
SmurphLin
SmurphLin

I dont' know how hard it would be to renovate some of the places in your home. I have some local options like http://www.kitchen-bath.biz/baths.html that wouldn't cost that much to make room for others. I think the cost of remodeling some of the home would be considerably less than having to put a loved one in an assisted-living facility. But that's just my opinion. 

charliem
charliem

Thanks Suzanne for sharing your friends' experience with her mom and how she perfectly handled the situation. This gives people a glimpse of reality, a scenario they might get into one or two years from now. Now, they have an idea what preparations they should do in order to give their parents a comfortable and safe retirement life. Early planning can definitely dodge huge financial debts later on and can guarantee your parent's safety all throughout the time they have moved in with you. In Victoria's case, she shouldered the responsibility of taking care of her mother but there's another option that people can consider like hiring a caregiver or any skilled professional who can handle the needs of seniors. I like the way you've enumerated important factors that people should consider such as the privacy, care and safety issues of seniors and highlighting the importance of long term care insurance, Medicare or Medicaid and everything else you need to consider in ensuring the safety and wellness of your loved one. I do agree that long term care planning is really essential and people should discuss this with their loved ones. I wish more people will be open about this and make this as one of their priorities. To further increase their knowledge about long term care here's an insightful video that can encourage them and help them more understand the benefits and convenience of planning early - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K08pNBscXX8

QualityAdvantage
QualityAdvantage

As our parents, spouses, relatives, and friends start to age it is important that they are safe in the environment they are living in whether it is in your home, assisted living, or their own home. Accidents in the bathroom are one of the largest places that the elderly are falling and injuring themselves. Bathtubs can be very hazardous. Transferring from a wheelchair to the tub can be difficult. The tub area must be carefully designed to provide maximum safety. Bathtub and shower grab bars can be installed to provide support. Many people find it difficult to use a tub. Bath tubs can be replaced with showers. For more information visit http://qahomeproducts.com/inde...

David Horgan
David Horgan

Our book "When Your Parent Moves In" hit #11 on Amazon! Thanks for looking at our

resource folks!!

David Horgan
David Horgan

I wrote a book with Shira Block called "When Your Parent Moves In"  You can lose

so much if you don't prepare for this major life change!!

Joyce Lentz
Joyce Lentz

I hope with the passage of time more and more people will address the issues of aging with their parents, and it's just as important that the aging parents give this subject careful thought while they're still young enough to qualify for long term care insurance.

Now that 40 states have "LTC Partnership programs" you do not have to buy an expensive "unlimited" long-term care insurance policy. You only need to buy an amount of long-term care insurance equal to the amount of assets you want to protect for yourself, your spouse or partner, and/or your heirs. These government-approved policies are like a traditional long-term care policy with additional consumer protection features.Here’s an explanation of how these policies work:http://bit.ly/How-Partnership-...

Dan Bruce
Dan Bruce

I take care of my parents, both in their mid-90s. Any extra cost in time and money is small compared to the benefit of having them live with me. Not every day is wonderful, of course, but, then again, every day is wonderful.

Talendria
Talendria

Great article!  It's difficult to make long-term plans because you never know when or how a parent might become incapacitated, but it's important to have the discussion when they're still mentally competent.  It's also a good idea to involve all the siblings in the decision-making process, so no one feels excluded or overburdened.

Jesse Slome
Jesse Slome

Please, everyone ask your aging parents if they have a long-term care insurance policy (8 million Americans do) and where it is.  Better yet, make a copy of the page with the policy number and the claims phone number.

At least once a year we get a call from someone who believes their parent has insurance but cannot locate the policy paperwork.  With 100 insurers who have at one time sold this coverage, it's an almost impossible task.  And, then there are those who found their parent's policy following their need for care and death. 

It's a rare occurrence - but it does happen.  They bought this so they wouldn't be a burden to you.  Acknowledge that and just explain you should have the info just as backup.

Jesse Slome

Executive Director

American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance

StevenPaul
StevenPaul

There are so many options not mentioned here.  A University of Colorado environmental gerontologist lists cluster care and Village-to-Village models as just two in a list of 20+ ways to help care for parents.

Kat Pournaropoulou
Kat Pournaropoulou

'

Decisions about providing care for an aging parent are by no means easy — or cheap''

I strongly believe that neither for a young (and healthy) parent was easy or cheap to bring up a child which writes an article like this... Elder parents and especially those who have been good parents do not deserve to be point out as ''heavy cross'' to their adults offsprings... Time to adapt Obama's health care and pension programm which is based on the wellfare state...

phoenix1920
phoenix1920

I'm confused as to what you are stating.  Is it your opinion that children should hide from their parents their financial strain and should have parents move in despite this?  And if so, isn't keeping that information from the aging parents paternalistic and assume the parent cannot make their own decision based on all necessary information?  If so, you are taking away your parents' right to decide such matters for themselves by providing only the information you deem worthy.  I am a parent to two children and work very hard to make sure I can provide the best life I can for my children.  If I am lucky enough to make it to point where I cannot live independently, I want to make my OWN choice as to where I live--and knowing what financial obligations and strain it will cost my children is definitely something I WANT to know before I accept an offer to move in.  If it would strain my children's pocket book or put them in debt, I'd look to other options.

majc215
majc215

@phoenix1920 I totally agree