Caring for elderly parents


Caring for elderly parents is a major commitment. As you begin to care for your elderly parents, you’ll run into financial and emotional challenges that can quickly create a complicated situation.

Although it can be challenging to care for elderly parents, you’ll need to navigate the process for their sakes. Luckily, there are many resources for children of aging parents to ease the burden of responsibility. 

However, you and your siblings will still need to make decisions that will impact your aging parents’ health and well-being. We’ll take a closer look at the process of caring for elderly parents. 

Why is caring for elderly parents so hard?

Before we dive into the details of caring for elderly parents, let’s talk about why it can be such a difficult task. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers when it comes to caring for elderly parents. 

As the child of an aging parent, you’ll face a multitude of decisions. The choices you have to make for your parents will often be very emotional, and the ever-present weight of the financial burden can add more stress to the process. 

You’ll likely need to consult with your siblings before making any choices about your elderly parents’ care. Depending on the dynamics of those relationships, joint decisions for your parents can be even more difficult. 

Although it is a challenge to care for aging parents, taking on this mantle of responsibility will likely happen at some point. As your parents move towards the age where they need more care, thoughtfully consider how you will care for them. 

How to care for elderly parents

Caring for elderly parents is not a simple task. You’ll find this process is a multi-faceted one that requires decision-making on various aspects of your parents’ lives. 

Here’s what you should consider as you move forward. 

Who should care for elderly parents?

One of the first questions you can ask yourself is who will care for your parents. Not only should you determine who will provide care, but also where your parents will live while they receive care. 

This will be one of the most important decisions you make for your parents. With that, it is important to talk to your siblings and make sure that everyone is in agreement. 

In many cases, the solution is to have your parents move in with one of their children. Although this can create emotional tension, it allows for a level of care that could be unaffordable if your parents remained in their own home. 

Another option is to move your parents to a long-term care facility. However, this is often an expensive choice. Beyond the cost, you won’t have the oversight you may desire regarding their daily care and activities. 

Have an open discussion with the family members involved to determine the best course of action. 

Watch your elderly parents’ health 

As your parents age, they will likely need different levels of care along the way. At first, they may only need a little bit of help to function. But over time, they may rely more on your assistance. It’s important to keep a careful eye on any changes in their health as it deteriorates. 

Don’t be afraid to find professional help

At some point, you may no longer be qualified to help your elderly parents with their growing needs. Whether you don’t have enough time in the day or the required skills, professional help might become necessary.

Don’t be afraid to seek professional help when you need it. If you aren’t sure where to start looking for care, consider talking to a geriatric care manager. With their experience, they can guide you to local programs and resources that could be very helpful. 

You can find geriatric care managers through the Aging Life Care Association.  

Consider the finances of caring for elderly parents

Caring for elderly parents is an expensive undertaking. Typically, your parents will be facing medical costs and other age-related costs. In many cases, you’ll be stuck with the bills, and it’s important to consider beforehand how to cover these expenses. 

You may think about quitting your job to become a full-time caregiver for your parents. The short-term impacts to your finances, such as losing insurance coverage and forgoing a paycheck, need to be considered. 

But don’t forget to think about the long-term impacts on your financial plans. If you take a break from paid work, how will that impact your own retirement plans? Also, be realistic about your ability to find a new job with the skills you currently have when the time comes. Can you count on re-entering the workforce with the wages you are accustomed to?

Take a closer look at Medicare and Medicaid when caring for elderly parents

Do your parents qualify for Medicare or Medicaid? Take some time to find out. 

If your parents qualify, it could provide major financial relief. Look for any gaps in their coverage as you research their eligibility. A supplemental Medicare policy, also known as Medigap, can fill in any holes. 

Beyond this supplemental coverage, double-check your parents’ private health insurance policy and its coverage.

Seek out programs that will pay you for caring for elderly parents

When you are caring for elderly parents, there are numerous resources that can step in to help you. Take some time to research the government assistance and local charity programs available in your area. 

A few places to start your search include:

  • Getting paid to care for your parents. Several programs are available to provide a stipend for you while you care for your parents. Check out Medicaid Personal Services, Medicaid Caregiver Exemptions, Adult Foster Care, and Veterans Assistance options. 
  • Elder care locator tool. The federal government provides this tool to help you find local service providers.
  • National Association of Area Agencies on Aging. This organization offers multiple programs to help you. 

Although these are not the only places to find caregiving resources, you’ll be able to find a wealth of helpful information using these tools. 

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Help your elderly parents get their legal documents in order

As their caregiver, it is critical to help your parents get their legal arrangements in order. This is especially important if your parents have substantial assets to leave behind. 

One option is to encourage your parents to create a revocable living trust. With this option, their assets will avoid the court-supervised probate process when they pass away. Beyond the posthumous arrangements, talk to your parents about creating medical directives and appropriate power of attorney for you and your siblings. 

Keep an eye on your parent’s money

Unfortunately, older adults are often the target of financial scams. Watch out for any illegitimate charges or investments that could derail your parents’ financial security. 

Create a budget while caring for elderly parents

Although money can be an uncomfortable topic, you’ll need to uncover the details of your parents’ finances. Ask them to walk you through their regular budget. Beyond the basic expenses, talk about their ability to pay for major expenses that could arise in the future. 

If your parents cannot support themselves, it will likely be up to you and your siblings to fund the difference. Together, you can find creative solutions to help your parents make ends meet. Talk to your siblings about who can pay for upcoming care expenses. 

How to pay for expenses while caring for elderly parents

Paying for your elderly parents’ expenses can get expensive quickly. If your parents are unable to fund their lifestyle and medical care expenses themselves, there are other options. 

A personal loan or home equity loan could be a course of action, but it will likely put more financial pressure on your parents. It might be a better idea to find a different solution. For some, the best option will be to tap into the cash value of available life insurance policies. 

Here are the different ways that your parents can access the cash value of their life insurance policy to fund their expenses:

  • Surrender the policy. Your parents can simply surrender the policy if they no longer want it. This eliminates the insurance premiums from their budget and allows them to cover expenses with the current cash value of the policy. This option will eliminate the death benefit.
  • Take a cash withdrawal. If your parents’ life insurance policy has a cash value, then they can make a withdrawal to cover expenses. With this option, the death benefit may remain intact if they don’t withdraw too much. 
  • Take a loan on the policy. With a permanent life insurance policy, your parents can take a loan to access the cash value. However, your parents will have to repay their policy at some point. 
  • Pursue a life settlement. A life settlement allows your parents to sell their policy to a buyer who will take over making the premium payments. When the buyer purchases the policy from your parents, they will agree to pay your parents a lump sum that is typically higher than the policy’s cash value. In return, the buyer will be able to collect the death benefit. 
  • Pursue a viatical settlement. A viatical settlement is very similar to a life settlement. The major difference is that your parents will likely receive a larger payout through this option. If they are terminally ill, your parents may qualify for a viatical settlement. 

Tapping into the cash value of their life insurance policy could allow your parents to cover the expenses they are facing in their old age, and relieve you of some financial pressure.

FAQs about caring for elderly parents

Do you have questions about caring for elderly parents? We’ve got the answers you need.

Is caring for elderly parents at home possible?

Yes. It is possible to care for elderly parents at home in many situations. However, at other times the level of care your parents require may not be possible to maintain at home.

Consult with professionals about your unique situation if you are unsure.

What are the benefits of caring for elderly parents at home?

Caring for elderly parents at home has several benefits. Typically, caring for your parents at home is more cost-effective than paying for care outside of the home.

Beyond the cost savings of caring for elderly parents at home, there can be many emotional benefits. You’ll likely build a stronger relationship, provide a sense of purpose, and keep a close eye on your parents’ care.

What steps should I take while caring for elderly parents during COVID?

If you are caring for elderly parents during the COVID pandemic, you’ll need to take additional precautions. A few include wearing masks, washing hands often, and cleaning shared surfaces frequently. 

Take additional guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

How can I manage the stress of caring for elderly parents?

Caring for elderly parents can be a stressful undertaking. The first step to reducing this stress is to get organized. Create a system that allows you to easily keep track of your parents’ medical needs.

As you navigate the process, don’t forget to set boundaries with your parents. This is especially true if you allow them to live with you. Setting boundaries is an important part of any healthy relationship.

Finally, remember to make time for yourself. Don’t neglect setting aside time for self-care, and learn to accept the limitations of your life’s circumstances.

How can I care for elderly parents who were abusive?

It can be understandably difficult to find the will to care for abusive parents effectively. However, there are steps you can take to make the process possible.

Start by considering therapy to work through the emotions surrounding your relationship with your parents. If you cannot find it within yourself to provide care for your parents, that’s okay. Look for an option to outsource the care decisions that need to be made. One way to do this is to find a legal guardian to appoint for your parents.

Don’t be afraid to set boundaries when caring for an abusive parent. You can only do what you feel comfortable with.

Are there forums with advice on caring for elderly parents?

Yes! There are forums centered on caring for elderly parents. You can find some of the most useful forums through Aging Care


Caring for elderly parents is a challenge. Even under the best circumstances, you’ll face challenging emotional and financial decisions.

When you run into questions, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Contact your financial advisor or life insurance agent to help you navigate the finances in this unique time of your parents’ lives.

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