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7 Considerations for Caregivers of Elderly Parents

hands representing caring for elderly parents

Many of us have reached an age where caring for our elderly parents is top of mind. Here are 7 considerations that might relate to your financial planning.  

Author: Martin Lundgren

As a financial advisor, I help clients prepare for a multitude of scenarios, but there is one reality many face more than we like to think about — caregiving for elderly parents. While it’s one thing to plan out your hopes and dreams for your next home, children’s education, or retirement goals, integrating caring for older family members is an important consideration that shouldn’t be overlooked.

I recently attended a presentation by Carolyn McClanahan, M.D., CFP®, on the multifaceted challenges of caregiving. The insights shared were invaluable. I hope it will be helpful to relay this information to anyone stepping into the role of caregiver for their aging parents.  

Below, I’m sharing my top 6 takeaways.

1. Define Goals for Care

The cornerstone of effective caregiving is defining clear goals for care. This involves understanding your parent’s wishes regarding medical treatment, living arrangements, and overall quality of life. Documenting these goals and ensuring they are flexible to adapt to changing needs over time is imperative. Communication with family members and healthcare providers is critical to prevent misunderstandings and ensure everyone supports the caregiving plan.

2. Align Family and Healthcare Providers

It is so important to get everyone on the same page. This begins with creating advance directives and sharing them with family members and healthcare providers. Resources like Prepare for Your Care can help draft these directives. Alignment prevents conflicts and ensures that your parents’ preferences are honored throughout their care journey.

3. Include Care in Your Financial Planning 

The financial aspects of caregiving can be daunting. It’s essential to understand and plan for the costs associated with different types of care. For example, in Washington, the average rate for home health care is $6,578. For comparison, the monthly median cost of assisted living in Seattle in 2023 was $7,161.

To manage these costs, consider various funding sources, including

  • savings
  • long-term care insurance
  • family assistance
  • government benefits such as Medicaid and VA programs 
  • a hybrid life insurance and long-term care plan can also segregate funds specifically for caregiving needs.

4. Think About Care Trajectory and Quality of Life

Understanding the care trajectory and focusing on quality of life are essential components of caregiving. The care journey can be unpredictable due to medical complications and other challenges. Engaging your parent in their care and addressing issues like medication errors, falls, and poor nutrition can make a significant difference.

Quality of life should be the guiding principle. If your parent maintains an acceptable quality of life through communication, interaction, grooming, and nutrition, the current care plan might suffice. However, if you notice the signs that their quality of life is deteriorating, it may be necessary to consider significant changes, such as palliative care or hospice.

5. Home Care Considerations: Initial Steps and Hiring Help

Preparation is vital if you decide to care for your parent at home. Your checklist should involve setting up an aging-friendly environment, establishing a care schedule, and planning for respite care. Hiring professional help early, whether through a home health agency or private caregivers, ensures you have support from the start.

Navigating long-term care insurance, taxes, and insurance issues can be complex. Finding reliable caregivers might involve contacting friends, neighbors, or local CNA schools. Advocacy remains critical throughout this process; be prepared to continually advocate for your parent’s needs.

6. Include Transitioning to a Facility in Your Planning

There may come a time when moving your parent to a care facility is necessary. Advance planning and thorough research are essential in making this decision. Consider factors such as location, services offered, and facility ownership. Utilizing tools like Medicare’s care comparison and visiting facilities multiple times can provide valuable insights.

Understanding the facility’s contract terms is essential. Clarify what is included in the basic daily rate, the costs of additional services, and who is responsible for the bills. Frequent visits and engagement with the facility staff and other families can help ensure high-quality care.

7. Seek Help to Navigate Insurance and Government Assistance

Long-term care insurance can be a valuable resource, but it requires careful management. Understanding the benefits, exclusion periods, and application processes is crucial. Keeping detailed records and communication logs with insurance providers will help manage claims effectively.

Government assistance programs like Medicaid and VA benefits can provide significant support. Starting the application process early and consulting with experts, such as Medicaid attorneys, can streamline access to these resources.

Talk to Your Financial Advisor About Elderly Care 

As a financial advisor, I strongly recommend that clients facing the prospect of caregiving for their parents start planning early. Defining clear goals, aligning with family and healthcare providers, and meticulous financial planning are critical steps. 

At Northern Lights Advisors, we’ve helped clients navigate caregiving for elderly parents. If you’d like to learn more about how we can integrate this or other complex scenarios into your financial planning, reach out today

Northern Lights Advisors is a fiduciary, fee-only, Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) firm based in Seattle, Washington. The information in this article is not intended as tax, accounting, or legal advice. Read the full disclaimer here.