By Bob Gregory
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I hear about financial ruin and failed marriages all the time but there seems to be a trend where couples experience issues when attempting to provide elder care for one of the spouse’s parent or parents. It generally begins with the financial burden of attempting to provide a higher quality of retirement for a parent. It’s not uncommon for an elder parent to reach retirement and find they just do not have the financial means to support themselves for as long as they are capable of living. This not only affects those who fail to plan, but also those who failed to achieve their plan or their plan just wasn't comprehensive enough. More and more elderly parents turn to their children for financial help and in today’s economy, not all children have the ability to literally support another family. I also see situations where the elderly parents refuse to ask for help, but their living situation becomes so disturbing to their children, that they feel pressured to assist.
When an elderly parent needs financial assistance, most children immediately seek benefits to help subsidize their parent’s retirement. This is a great plan but most find this frustrating as it’s not easy to qualify for help if you have any level of retirement funds at all. Additionally, not all senior facilities accept government subsidies such as Medicaid and require private pay. For those that do accept Medicaid, it is important to know that Medicaid will not pay for room and board expenses. However, there are some states that provide a Medicaid room and board allowance that usually ranges from $500 to $600 a month. This amount is very low compared to the typical cost of an Assisted Living Facility. Another potential source of funding can come from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD provides low income assisted living help through their Section 8 provision by providing "vouchers" to qualified individuals.
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However, these vouchers must be used at HUD approved housing developments. There are some Assisted Living Facilities that operate as HUD Assisted Living Facilities and accept the vouchers. If one or both of your parent’s were veterans, they may qualify for Veteran Aid. Your parent may qualify for The Aid and Attendance Benefit, referred to as A&A. This entitles veterans and spouses or widows to benefits for long-term care provided by an assisted living facility. There are also some state run Veteran’s homes that provide housing but space is very limited and may be difficult due to low vacancies. All of these subsidies are based on income and may be hard to qualify.
If children are successful in finding subsidies, they have the real challenge of deciding if the facilities that accept the subsidies meet their standards for their parents. Let’s face it, in order to provide adequate services at the reduced amount allowed by subsidies, the glitz and glamour must be sacrificed in most cases. Focus is on service and not as much on the appearance. That’s not to say they are not clean and pleasant,
they are just not as appealing as a facility that charges over $3,000 to $4,000 a month! Also, not all of these facilities are in convenient locations as land value is often a consideration to help keep construction costs low. In most cases, children of elderly parents in need of subsidies find themselves “shopping” for facilities with their hearts and not their heads. In the end, it’s all about the care the elderly parent receives but most children want that care to provided in the most comfortable and appealing environment that they can afford! This is where the financial issues begin for children who truly cannot afford to support their parents in a manner that they feel their parent deserves.
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Financial Planning Profession
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It’s time to go back to the retirement plan and current household budget and see just how much you can help your elderly parents! If you are smart—I hope you are—you have a retirement plan to assure you don’t end up like your parents and become a financial burden on your children. With that thought in mind, do not lower the amount you are saving for your retirement! Instead, take a look at your current household budget and decide if you have the means to make up the difference between what your parents can afford and what you would like to see for your parent to afford. Are you willing to get a second job, cut out vacations, get student loans for your children’s college, and downsize yourself? These are some tough questions and they must be answered honestly by both you and your spouse to avoid the failed marriage I mentioned above. Also, will you find yourself in a situation where you may have to provide the same assistance for your spouse’s parents? Can you afford to do for both sets of parents what you are hoping to do for one set? Also, if both of you work, can you be sure neither of you will become unemployed? If your plan counts on both of you having income, make sure you are comfortable that both of you can sustain employment. Finally, will the additional financial burden cause you or your spouse to delay your own retirement? You don’t know how long your parents will live and how long they will continue to need support.
Couples realizing they may not be able to provide additional financial support will often come to the conclusion to care for their parents in their home. This is a viable option but it comes with just as many challenges and decisions—more than I can discuss in this writing! Financial problems can create tremendous stress on a marriage, especially if the financial problems could have been avoided. Experts in marriage and divorce say lack of communication is the leading cause for divorce in our modern society. Therefore, be honest and open with your spouse regarding funding your parents (or your spouse’s parents) retirement. Honesty is a cornerstone to a healthy relationship and committing to support your parents financially requires both of you to be in complete agreement and understand the potential problems that may be ahead. You should also be honest with your parents about how much you can or cannot help them with their retirement. I’ll try to address that conversation in future writings!
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Bob Gregory is an advocate for Seniors and is one of the founders of www.seniorfacilityfinder.com. At SeniorFacilityFinder.com, we are dedicated to helping families get the Elder Care help they need without having to provide their personal information! If find you need an assisted living facility or other type of senior facility, please consider www.seniorfacilityfinder.com