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Caring for Elderly Parents

October 27th, 2009 at 12:42 pm

My parents died when I was twenty-five and consequently, my daughters grew up never knowing their maternal grandparents. I always felt this was a huge void in their lives as well as in mine. No matter how old you are, you can still feel like an orphan. My parents, while not perfect, provided unconditional love and were there for me when I needed them. And I've never stopped missing them each and every day of my life.

So, naturally, unlike some of my friends, I will never have the experience and the challenge of caring for elderly parents. Seeing what some of my friends are going through makes me determined to not be a burden on my daughters when I can no longer care for myself. To this end, I am making sure I address some of the financial aspects of being too old, ill, or frail to care for myself.

One of my friends is facing the likelihood of having to postpone her retirement because she has to subsidize her parents' income. She is dealing with an 82 year-old mother with Alzheimers and a father who until now has never been involved in the family finances. Sadly, he spends uncontrollably because he doesn't understand how to budget. My friend is fortunate that her dh is supportive because the care of her parents is consuming more and more of her time and money. This is just one example, but I know of several others. I have vowed not to do the same to my own children. So what steps have I taken?

My DD1, a registered nurse, is in charge of our advanced health care directives. We figured she would be in the best position to fully understand any health issues and the resulting implications. I also have two revocable trusts because of our somewhat complicated financial situation. I had considerably more assets than my dh when we married, so one trust addresses my sole and separate property (my DDs are the beneficiaries). The other is a community property trust (our 4 children are beneficiaries). My trust also includes instructions for my funeral... I guess you can say I'll be a control freak even after I'm dead.

Health care is one of the biggest expenses in old age and we are fortunate to have some good resources. I have limited long-term care through my former employer who also provides health care for life (through an HMO) to retirees meeting certain criteria (I did). My recently-retired dh also has health insurance through the Public Employees Retirement System, giving us access to a comprehensive PPO for a nominal fee (currently ~$46 a month). We earned these benefits through our 30+ years of service as public school educators, saving us hundreds a month on health care alone.

At a future date, we will move full-time to ID and live in the house we purchased in 2006. The house is small and easy to maintain and best of all, it's mortgage-free. When we get too old or incapacitated, our income should be adequate to pay someone to help cook, clean, run errands, and take us to appointments. Although I know my DDs would gladly help as much as they could, we do not want to burden them. And because I raised daughters that are honest and financially astute, I know I can trust them to oversee our finances when we can no longer do so. I dread doing some of the crazy or foolish things I've heard about... like another friend's mother who subscribed to 27 magazines and donated money she doesn't have to every charity that solicits through the mail.

And lastly, we've earmarked funds to be used if we have to go into an assisted living home. It comforts me to know my daughters will be there for me in the end, and that we will not be a financial burden on them. Someone was telling me about an 89 year-old woman with no family or friends. She apparently had been dead in her house for weeks before she was discovered because the mailman couldn't fit any more in the mail slot. It's very sad when you hear of someone dying alone and unnoticed. Even though you can arrange to pay for your care, in the end it's the relationships that matter most.

5 Responses to “Caring for Elderly Parents”

  1. NJDebbie Says:

    My husband and I made a pact long ago to be supportive of each other when it came to taking care of our parents. You are one of kind for having a plan for your old age. Congrats!

  2. LuxLiving Says:

    I am working on very similar plans.

    Hubster and I spoke today of going out to go ahead and purchase our headstones. We've already got our burial plots paid for and have life insurance earmarked specifically for burials.

    We have more things that need doing and we've got a list and are checking them off.

    Great post. And I commend you on your hardwork at getting this stuff taken care of. Your children are blessed.

  3. miz pat Says:

    When my Mom died and Dad lived alone, I hired a lady to stay with Dad and help him. I paid his bills from California and called him, but when he had a heart attack and I returned home, I found the lady's mother (reportedly a heroin addict) was in the house, and all the antique furniture, my mother's jewelry and fur and the antique books gone.

    Now at the time, I didn't give a rip about physical things, my Dad was dying and I was fighting with the hospital.

    As I look back on this and all the things done to him, I can only say that the elderly are victimized both by the system and by many people.

    Since I am now alone, I hope that I will stay active and clear minded until the end. You have been wise, and I am glad your daughters are wise.

    I hope I will do even half as well.

  4. fern Says:

    What a touching post. That last paragraph really got to me.

    You have obviously thought all this through very well. I doubt most people can say that. I must admit that my advanced old age is one part of my life financial plan I haven't really provided for, mainly, because I can't stretch my money that far.

    I am a little afraid I will be like that 89-year-old woman because I am not married, don't really plan to be and have no children. I have a sister and 2 half-brothers, but we aren't close.

    My father recently mentioned to me that his late parents had purchased 4 grave plots, 2 for them, presumably 1 for him and 1 left over; maybe it was just available. And that if i wanted, i could be buried with them in NJ. I was quite startled, this was the first i was hearing of this, and while i always thought cremation would be environmentally more friendly than forever taking up open space, the thought of being buried near my family was somehow comforting.

  5. gamecock43 Says:

    I am glad you have put so much thought into your later years. I sometimes wonder about caring for BB's parents...but think it is really out of my hands. It is BB and his sisters decisions to make.

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