The Cost of Caring for an Elderly Parent
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Taking care of an elderly parent on top of your own family responsibilities can be as time consuming and exhausting as it is expensive. To help manage, have open conversations early on about how your parent wants to spend his or her golden years — and what you can contribute in time and money — and carefully weigh all of the options together.

As your parents begin to age, here are a few key elder care costs to consider and tips to help you proactively provide for your aging parent without breaking your budget.

Health Care Costs for the Elderly

Elder care is difficult to plan for because costs vary depending on specific health issues, says Joe Buckheit, CEO of AgingCare.com, an online forum and resource center for caregivers. “There really is no one-size-fits-all,” he says. For example, Over 25 percent of Alzheimer’s caregivers reported spending $4,000 per month to care for their family member, according to a recent AgingCare.com survey.

Long-term insurance policies also are not a one-size-fits-all. They differ on benefits and coverage. If your loved one has an insurance policy, understand what expenses will be covered and what expenses will be out-of-pocket.

When considering health care options, find out whether your parent is or will be eligible for Medicare and Medicaid and how these federal benefits programs may help offset costs. For example, Medicare may only pay for up to 100 days of skilled nursing home care. This benefit applies only if the elderly person has had a minimum three-day hospital stay and is then transferred to a nursing care facility.

On the other hand, Medicaid will pay for nursing home care only if the elderly person meets certain financial requirements determined by each state’s plan and vary depending on whether the person is single or married.

Assisted Living Costs for the Elderly

While housing and/or assisted living costs may vary based on Medicaid assistance, the type of services required, and other factors, the average cost of assisted living in the United States is $3,500 per month, according to the American Elder Care Research Organization; the cost of in-home care ranges from about $16 to $25 per hour.

If your parent owns his or her own home, one option for paying for assisted living is for him or her to sell or rent it.

In addition to help from Medicare and/or Medicaid, if your loved one has an annual income of less than 50 percent of your area’s median income, adjusted for household size, he or she might qualify for Department of Housing and Urban Development 202 and Section 8 senior housing.

Accessibility Costs for the Elderly

If your aging parent stays at home — in addition to budgeting for mortgage payments, annual taxes, insurance, maintenance, and lawn care — you may need to retrofit parts of the house to make it more accessible. This could be as simple as moving his or her bedroom to the first floor, but it could also require building entrance ramps and making bathrooms handicap accessible.

To help manage the costs, some organizations like Meals on Wheels Atlanta may offer minor home improvement services free of charge. “We are about one of 15 Meals on Wheels organizations nationwide that offer home repair services,” says Joseph Guy, director of home repair services. “We focus on minor repairs, such as replacing toilets and faucets, to ensure that the resident has safe and usable access to bathroom, kitchen, living, and sleeping areas. Our aim is to keep the senior in their own home for as long as possible.”

Daily Expenses for the Elderly

Living at home requires budgeting for utiltiies, groceries, and transportation, especially a reliable ride to and from doctors’ appointments.

Programs such as Meals on Wheels, well known for its meal program offered at about $5 per meal, can provide a wide array of services for aging adults. Some Meals on Wheels centers offer adult day services that include meals, activities, and programs.

Alternately, you might save money by buying food in bulk for the whole family and bringing meals to your parent — rather than buying food for his or her home that might go bad since only one person is eating it.

Elderly Care Assistance Programs

Buckheit says it’s never to early to look into assistance programs for which your parent may qualify. Veterans Affairs offers assistance to veterans and surviving spouses, for example.

“Other programs are localized at the state or county level, so look for programs in your specific area,” he says.

Your local Area Agency on Aging, sometimes called the Department of Elder Affairs or the Office for Senior Citizens, can connect you with resources. Find the nearest office at eldercare.gov.

Discussing these costs and concerns with your aging parent early, and creating a plan together, will help him or her make a choice he or she will feel comfortable with when changes need to be made down the line.

Read more to help determine what level of care your elderly parent needs and consider the cost of housing for your loved one.

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This information is general in nature and is provided for educational purposes only. Regions makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, timeliness, suitability, or validity of any information presented. Information provided should not be relied on or interpreted as accounting, financial planning, investment, legal, or tax advice. Regions encourages you to consult a professional for advice applicable to your specific situation.