It usually starts when one spouse dies and an aging parent suddenly seems alone and vulnerable. The parent may bring it up first, referencing a long ago conversation when the adult children said they’d never put their parent into a nursing home or similar facility. As described in Forbes’ “Aging Parents and The Rise of the Multi-Generation Household,” this promise is usually made when the parents are well and the natural response—“Of course not!”—is an easy answer. But situations change and the answer isn’t always so simple.
The idea of “being put in a home” is based on the largely outdated and Dickensian ideas of poorhouses and debtors’ prisons. While perhaps a bit overly dramatic, it may not be that far off for Depression-era kids who saw the treatment of seniors before Medicare and Medicaid provided some ongoing care. While some nursing homes are still found to violate government regulations, most are decent, well-managed and comfortable places to care for seniors who need a lot of attention for a multitude of medical needs. Licensed board and care homes may be another option for long-term care, usually at a lower cost than nursing homes. They don’t offer skilled nursing, but they do have a more intimate environment with a less institutional atmosphere.
Families addressing this question should look at how things might be in the future, both short- and long-term. Can family members manage a parent’s care needs, especially with medical equipment and increasingly frequent trips to the doctor, therapy and the pharmacy for meds? An adult child has to assume increasing obligations to transport and accompany the parent to his or her appointments, advocate and care for the parent and monitor the medications, diet and follow-through. This burden can become unbearable for some and living with a parent and trying to satisfy all his or her care needs can be too great a task.
For some families with kids in the house and both parents working, it can be nice to have a grandparent there to babysit—if he or she is able—and contribute to family chores. As the grandparent ages, children can learn responsibility in helping to care for a dependent person, which can help them mature. Plus, the one household can make the most efficient use of the aging parent’s assets. But this situation doesn’t always work out and it isn’t for everyone. There can be tension from having an in-law in the house, or adoring grandchildren may grow into reluctant teens.
The best choice moving forward requires planning and discussion amongst everyone involved. The parent, adult children and other family members need to be fully aware of the potential challenges that may come up. There must be a backup plan in case there’s a need for outside help to come into the house. All parties must be aware that a time may come when a decision must be made to move the aging parent into a care facility that will provide necessary care.
It can be difficult to open up the conversation and many parents don’t know where to start. That’s why at Family Estate Planning Law Group, we strongly encourage our clients to hold a Family Care Meeting. While the primary purpose of the meeting is to outline the estate plan, it’s also a golden opportunity to discuss any expectations, roles or responsibilities you’d like to ask of your adult children. It’s a chance for everyone to get on the same page and for your children to hear directly from you about your wishes for long-term care and other healthcare-related issues.
While some of this planning may be built into your estate plan, if your children haven’t heard about the plan and don’t know what roles and responsibilities they’d be stepping into, a medical or other emergency can be a much bigger mess than it has to be. For more information about this and other elder law planning topics, explore our website and contact us to schedule your consultation today!
Reference: Forbes (July 7, 2016) “Aging Parents and The Rise of the Multi-Generation Household”