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As you are planning for your retirement and working to ensure that you have the financial security to maintain the lifestyle you want, you may also need to consider how to care for aging parents. Although the elderly often insist on remaining self-sufficient, your parents may need you to help them manage the latter years of their lives. It's important that you and your parents, as they age, gather their financial information, are prepared for the possibility of incapacity and consider how to pay for additional care if necessary. Below are some helpful tips to get started.

Communicate openly and compile any important papers

To help your parents maintain their independence, yet ensure their safety, it's important to start with and to maintain honest and open communication. Keep them as involved as possible and be sympathetic to their wishes. This will allow you to assist them more effectively. Additionally, you need to find out where they keep important papers. These may include:

  • Will
  • Power of attorney
  • Insurance policies
  • Marriage certificate
  • Birth certificate
  • Social Security records
  • Military records
  • Financial records (pensions and investments, property, and a list of financial advisors)
  • Insurance policies

Determine whether or not they should live independently

If your parents desire and are able to live at home, there are some precautions you should take to ensure their health and well-being.

  • Conduct a safety check of the house.
  • Make sure they're paying the bills. If not, sign them up for online or automatic bill pay, which allows you access to make payments.
  • Make sure they fill their prescriptions. Look into state or drug makers' programs to help reduce the cost. Consider mail-order drugs that update automatically each month.
  • Hire an in-home nurse if needed, but be aware of the costs associated with this level of care.

If they cannot live independently

Eventually, your parents may need more comprehensive help, and you may not have the space or capacity to move them in with you. Many assisted living facilities offer graduated levels of care. However, you should select the lowest-possible level of care needed, to help your parents maintain as much of their lifestyle as possible. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Medicare does not pay for assisted living services.
  • Aside from the regular fees associated with the facility, additional fees are often billed separately for services such as extra nursing and equipment.
  • If the facility requires medications to be packaged in single-dose packets this can add a substantial amount to the costs.

If your parents become entirely unable to care for themselves, a nursing home would be the next step. You should conduct adequate research on long-term care options before making a decision.

How to foot the bill

Historically, Social Security, pensions and savings fund the later years, but these avenues may not provide enough money for the duration of your parents' declining health stage. Here are some additional options you can consider to pay for health care and other expenses:

  • Medicare, which takes effect at age 65.
  • Investing assets into something that provides a predictable monthly income, such as an annuity.
  • Sale of real estate.
  • Medical expenses are deductible if they exceed a certain percentage of adjusted gross income.
  • Medical expenses are deductible if they exceed 7.5% of adjusted gross income.

Finally, while you are in the midst of caring for your parents, there are a few helpful tips you can take for yourself.

  • Create an emergency savings fund. Even if you're not paying directly for your parents' care, it's smart to prepare for other expenses that may arise.
  • Don't try to do everything yourself. Recruit relatives or friends.
  • Don't take on your parents' debts. Unless you took legal responsibility for their obligations (i.e. co-signed a loan), you cannot be held responsible for any debts they may have accrued.
  • Most importantly, make sure that you begin planning for your own retirement now, so your own children can easily assist you when the time comes!
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