Nobody wants to watch their parents get older and start to struggle in the physical world, but it’s an unavoidable fact of life. At some point, your parents will begin to have a hard time with things. For example, they might lose some strength, have trouble walking, or lose some of their mental faculties. When these things happen, you’ll be their first line of support.
Are you ready to be a caregiver? It’s not an easy job, and if you aren’t prepared for the task, you’ll probably be overwhelmed and underprepared. Even if your parents aren’t that close to needing care, here’s what you can do so it doesn’t take you by surprise.
1. Find out how you can be a paid caregiver
Right off the bat, you’ll be happy to know that you can get paid to care for your parents. Most states have programs in place that will pay you for the time you spend caregiving as long as the parent in need qualifies and you sign up for the program.
Getting paid to provide care for an aging or disabled parent ensures you won’t lose too much of your usual paycheck from taking time off work. When the time comes, you might start off thinking you can handle it without pay, but that won’t last long. Since caregiving can be exhausting, most people end up taking additional days off work just to rest and recover. You’ll need all the income you can get so you can take care of yourself while you help your parents.
2. Ask them how they want care
Before they get to the point of needing care, ask your parents if they have any preferences. For example, they might prefer a caregiver of the same gender (or not). Some people want a companion, which means you’ll have to make sure the caregiver you choose is a match socially as well.
The tougher part of this conversation is discussing whether they prefer to stay at home or are willing to move into a long-term care facility, should the need arise. Most people will be adamant about remaining in their own home, which is understandable.
Nobody really wants to be in a place that feels like a hospital, and that’s unfortunately how most nursing homes feel. The only other option you have is to pay for a full-time home health aide or a room in an assisted living facility. However, these options are expensive, ranging from $4,000-$8,500 per month on average. If you or your parents don’t have that kind of money, you can either start investing to generate the funds, or be prepared to move them into a facility against their wishes.
3. Discuss financials with your parents
Discussing finances with your parents is crucial. If they need caregiving or long-term care, their income will determine their eligibility. You need to know what kind of income they earn so you can start planning accordingly.
For example, if they make more money than your state’s maximum, they won’t get free or discounted services through the state. You need to know ahead of time so you aren’t planning on getting state help when they don’t qualify.
If you have a trusting relationship with your parents already, consider having them add your name to their bank account as early as possible. This way, you can access their funds legally should anything happen unexpectedly. For example, if one of your parents is taken to the hospital and you can’t find their debit card, you won’t be able to pay their household bills with their funds.
4. Look into the cost and requirements for long-term care
You might think that everyone can get help from the state to cover long-term care costs, but there are income requirements. In most cases, your parent will need to qualify for Medicaid first.
The cost of care won’t be the same when your parents need help, but it should be relatively close. You can definitely expect the cost to rise over time. Whether they get covered by the state or you plan to pay out of pocket, you’ll need to know what to expect.
5. Discuss sharing duties with family members
One of the most important, yet often overlooked necessities is discussing care options with family members. Chances are, if you’re the only one planning ahead, you’ll be the one who carries the majority of the work. Talk with your other family members to get them on board with sharing the work. Waiting until the last minute will likely result in arguments.
Planning ahead is the key
There are many challenges that come with caring for an aging parent, so don’t let anything catch you by surprise. Start planning today so you’ll have a good handle on the situation by the time your parents need care.