As the 'baby boomer' population increases, Americans are feeling the financial and emotional responsibility for caring for parents.
"So many 'baby boomer' children are caught off guard by their parents' needs as they age. There are so many emotional issues and family dynamic roadblocks; it is hard to know where to start," says Christina Lesher, elder care law attorney.
With all the complicated emotional issues, a good starting place is to look at the necessary estate planning documents needed to act on the parents' behalf.
Lesher says she has experienced case disputes where sibling rivalries post obstacles for legal planning.
Having a financial power of attorney and medical power of attorney can save adult children big dollars and avoid costly court proceedings," says Lesher. "Families will want to make sure the powers of attorney are Texas documents, and they will need to know where the signed documents are located."
"Ideally, parents and children should talk about their parent's finances and a plan of who will help take care of them before a crisis occurs," adds Lesher. "Communication ahead of time to help frame everyone's expectations - yours, your parents, siblings and family members is crucial. It is easier to set limits when you are not in a time of crisis."
Do children have an obligation to support their parents?
"There are states that have what we call filial responsibility laws - laws requiring adult children to pay for parents' care," says Lesher. Texas doesn't have such laws anymore, and many of the states that do not enforce them. The bigger question, is do the adult children feel they have a responsibility to support their parents."
What other things do families need to consider?
"There are resources to help pay for care, and adult children shouldn't assume that nothing is available because their parents have a house or savings," says Lesher. "If the adult children can't or won't be able to assist in paying for care, a good investment is to buy a couple of hours with an elder law attorney to see what public resources are available."
Nursing home care cost anywhere from $3,500 each month up to $8,000 monthly. Home care and assisted living are also expensive. Families should consider looking at programs such as Medicaid and the Veteran's Administration to help pay for care at home and at a nursing home.
• Caring for aging parents is an emotional issue
• First step is to make sure estate planning documents are in place
• Set expectations and boundaries early
• Adult children should look into public benefits to help pay for care
For more information on providing care for aging parents, visit the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys at http://www.naela.org/, Alzheimer's Association Houston & Southeast Texas at http://www.alz.org/texas/, and Kryptiq CareManager at http://www.kryptiq.com/population-health-management/.