No one quite knows your parents the way you do. However, caring for ageing family members can be emotional, frustrating, exhausting and daunting, both for you and the people you are caring for. The truth is, while you parents have taken care of you, your entire life, when the tables turn, and it becomes time for you to support them, there are some things you should consider ahead of time.
Supporting Your Parents – What you Should Consider
What Is Your Current Relationship with Your Parents?
One of the first things to consider before deciding on how you will support your parents, is your relationship. If you have a less than desirable relationship with your parents in the past, it is unlikely to get better if they immediately move in with you.
While they are your parents and you may feel obligated to take care of them, over time unresolved issues can resurface and make it difficult for you to provide them with the quality of care they require.
If you have a positive relationship with your parents, you need to consider what having them move in with you could do to that relationship. Focus on what is in the best interest of all of you. The older your parents get the more difficult it may seem to get along with them and care for them, especially if they are in need of constant assistance.
Just make sure to consider the strength of your relationship with your parents. You may need to seek other methods to help provide for you parent’s future, rather than have them move in with you.
What do Their Finances Look Like?
When considering how you will care for and support your parents, their financial state becomes extremely important. Take the time to sit down with your parents and ask a few important financial questions.
- How much their housing costs including utilities, insurance and maintenance.
- If they have acquired any medical expenses that need to be paid for.
- Whether they have obtained life insurance.
- Find out if they have a budget set out and what their income sources are.
What Are Your Current and Future Financial Responsibilities?
This may be a time of great sacrifice called upon you and other family members. Before trying to take too much on your shoulders, you need to be realistic about your own current and future financial responsibilities. For instance, car payments, retirement savings, mortgages and more can all be heavy financial burdens.
Make sure that whatever you and other siblings pitch in towards supporting your parents is something you can responsibly continue to do. You don’t want to drop the ball on supporting them. You also don’t want to set the expectations that you can throw in additional funds at any time and cause yourself to fall short in other areas. Remember, your future financial responsibilities are still there and should be considered.
Many families find themselves in difficult situations because they drain their own savings helping their parents. One way to avoid doing so is to speak to your own financial advisor and allow them to help you plan accurately. One piece of advice they may give you is to ensure you have enough life insurance on your parents to settle their debts, medical expenses and funeral costs.
Deciding Where Your Parents Should Stay
Sometimes parents will need to move from their home. Downsizing can save considerable amounts of money and help to contribute to the costs of their care. Before deciding on where they should now stay, make sure to have a geriatric care manager, advisor, or lawyer sit in and consult in a meeting. Your parents have a few options.
- They could stay in a retirement community, which they no longer are responsible for maintenance costs, have a smaller home to keep up with, and are not responsible for taxes.
- They may downsize their large home and move into an apartment.
- They can stay with a family member.
The third option offers the best financial move; however, many families experience family drama. For instance, your parents may feel it’s all right to overstep their bounds and tell you how to raise your kids. If your parents start to show signs of dementia, you are looking at needing extreme amounts of care and attention for your parents. This is emotionally draining on families and causes tension to spouses. On the other hand, though, moving your parents into your home could give you the peace of mind they are taken care of and may help around the home. Some parents move in with their children and are excellent childcare providers. This could save you money as well.
What to Think About
Some families must show more than just financial support for their parents. They must also become their full-time caregiver. Not everyone feels comfortable placing their parents into a retirement community. Considering how you are caring for your own family now, that’s highly commendable. Before taking on such a huge responsibility, you should consider the following 3 things before becoming a full-time caregiver.
- You will spend a lot of time taking care of your parents. You may need to feed, bathe, and groom them. This could cause you to neglect your current responsibilities. In doing so, resentment could surface between your family and yourself.
- If you are currently working, consider your income loss. As you could receive payment for becoming your parent’s full-time caregiver, will it be enough? You have debt to eliminate, current bills to pay for, as well as plan for your retirement. If you return to work years later, what is the possibility you can reenter the workforce and start back at the salary you once had?
- What about your employee benefits? Do you have life insurance, employee disability, or pension?
Consider taking an extended leave or work from home to care for your parent. Losing your income and benefits may be a bit more than you can ask for. Remember, emergencies happen and your plan may not work out.
Seek Outside Professional Help
The financial burden of taking care of your parents may not all fall on your shoulder. Make sure to consider other professional agencies for help. For example, if your parents are making poor financial decisions, not managing their money wisely, or are in debt, you may want to reach out to a credit counseling service. They may work out a plan to help them manage their money better and continue to live on their own.
You can also turn to government assistance. Your parents may not understand how to apply for their Old Age Security or not have drawn from their Canada Pension Plan. Make sure to sit down with your parents before it’s too late for them to apply. If your parents are low income, consider checking out this listing of Benefits for Seniors with a Low Income. This includes information for the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) and The Allowance.
Other Ways to Help Your Parents
If you don’t have the money to support your parents, there are other things you can do. If your parents have a large home, consider coming over and cleaning or doing their landscaping so they don’t have to pay someone to do so. You can also cook extra food and bring over to them for them to cut back on their grocery expense.
Don’t Forget Tax Season
If you are providing the majority of the financial support for your parents or become their caregiver, make sure to talk to your tax advisor during the tax season. Your parents could be considered your dependent. You could also be eligible to claim $2,000 under the Family Caregiver Amount (FCA) credit if your parent is considered to have a physical or mental impairment.
As you can see, there are many decisions to be made when considering the best care and financial support for your parents. There are unfortunately right and wrong decisions, so it’s important to make your decision with care. Seek as much professional advice as you can before making a major financial move.
Elizabeth Lampman is a coffee-fuelled Mom of 2 girls and lives in Hamilton, Ontario. She enjoys travelling, developing easy recipes, crafting, taking on diy projects, travelling and saving money!