Early Planning Can Help Caregivers Assist Their Parents

Megan Ray  |  May 2, 2012

When it comes to financial planning, most people know that they should be saving up for retirement. However, many may not realize the financial burdens that can crop up as a parent begins to require senior care.

NPR's three-part series "Family Matters" is shining a light on what families in these situations are doing to get their loved ones the care and attention they need. Natasha Shamone-Gilmore, 58, is the subject of the first profile. Shamone-Gilmore told the news source that she "never" considered that her family would need extra money to take care of her aging father. Now, Shamone-Gilmore finds herself sharing a house with her husband, 24-year-old son and 81-year-old father.

Shamone-Gilmore's situation is not uncommon. A report by MetLife Mature Market Institute found that nearly 10 million adult children are caring for a parent. On average, this costs the children $3,500 per month in living expenses.

While the situation is common, planning ahead for it is not. Jack Hetherington, a certified elder-law attorney in suburban Philadelphia, told the news source that he estimates less than 20 percent of people take the legal and financial steps necessary to care for a loved one. That includes the all-important "power of attorney," which allows caregivers to make legal and financial decisions in case the senior deteriorates due to physical illness or memory loss.

"The purpose is to provide a safety net in case of incapacity," Hetherington told the news source. "If you wait too long and you don't have the capacity to make decisions, you end up in guardianship court, and that could involve lawyers, doctors, judges, time and money."

Caregivers should keep in mind that there are many financial options available when it comes to elder care facilities. Even if an assisted living home is far off in the future, it never hurts to sit down and begin mapping out financial matters early.