Caring For Elderly Parents
The number of people taking care of an aging parent has soared in the past 15 years. MetLife estimates that nearly 10 million adult children over age 50 now care for an aging parent. In 1994, only 3 percent of men and 9 percent of women helped provide basic care for a parent. In 2008, 17 percent of men and 28 percent of women provided such care, which is defined as helping with dressing, feeding, bathing, and other personal care needs. This level of help goes well beyond grocery shopping, driving parents to appointments, and helping them with financial matters. To put this in perspective, MetLife said working Americans lose an estimated $3 trillion in lifetime wages while taking care of a parent, with average losses of $324,044 for women and $283,716 for men (as of 2011).
In hindsight, the parents could have spared their children this burden had they purchased Long Term Care insurance (now I would be recommending life insurance with a LTC rider). Whether because of the prohibitive cost of LTC insurance, the mistaken belief that Medicare covers nursing home care (it doesn't, but Medicaid does after all other assets have been exhausted), or something else, these folks did not plan for this eventuality. Unfortunately, once you need the insurance, it's no longer an option.
Start by having the "conversation." Make sure you understand what your parents would want should you wind up with the legal power and responsibility to make decisions for them. If you don't know the ins and outs of a power of attorney, a living will, or a healthcare proxy find an eldercare expert or attorney to help. Make sure all the siblings are involved with the process. When we went through this with my wife's parents, we documented exactly what their wishes were and made sure everyone had a copy.
It is extremely important to document everything, especially if one sibling is going to bear the brunt of either the direct care or financial responsibility. Then when it comes time to settle the estate, everyone will be on the same page.