Caring for your aging parents is something you hope you can handle when the time comes, but something you probably hope you never have to do. Caring for your aging parents means helping them plan for the future, and this can be overwhelming, both physically and emotionally. When the time comes for you to take care of your parents, you may be certain of only two things: Your parents need you, and you need help.
Financial and tax considerations for you
Caring for your aging parents is not only an emotional burden for you but may be a financial one as well, depending upon how well off your parents are and how much caring for them costs. Because many adults today are becoming first-time parents in their thirties, and others are remarrying and rearing second families, increasing numbers of adults are finding themselves in the “sandwich generation.” They face having to pay expenses of growing children (including college expenses), plan for their own retirement, and support their aging parents financially. Thus, it’s important to plan not only your parents finances, but your own as well.
Financial planning for your parents
Making sure that your parents won’t outlive their money is a critical step in ensuring that your own finances will remain sound. In particular, you’ll need to make sure that your parent is receiving all the benefits to which he or she is entitled and that his or her money is invested wisely. You’ll also need to create a financial profile for your parents, a statement that includes income, expenses, and net worth. If, after considering your parent’s financial condition, it’s clear that they won’t have enough resources to pay for their own care, you’ll need to find ways to supplement their income. You may need to look at Supplemental Security Income (SSI), for instance, or ask other relatives for help. You’ll also have to determine how much financial support you can give your parents (see below).
Financial planning for you
Besides caring for your parents, you have a lot of other financial obligations. Before you can determine the best way to help your parents financially, you’ll have to look at your own financial picture. Not only will you need to consider your current expenses, but you’ll have to look down the road a few years, considering how much you’ll need to save for your own retirement and, perhaps, for your child’s education.
Due to the complexities inherent in providing adequately for several generations in the same family, consider seeking the advice of a financial professional.
Tax benefits for children supporting aging parents
Federal income tax law provides several tax benefits to you if you are supporting your parents financially. If you have a dependent care account at work, you can put pretax dollars into the account that you can use to pay for some costs associated with caring for your dependent parents. You may be able to claim an exemption for your parents as dependents, and you may be entitled to claim a dependent care credit. In addition, you may be able to file your taxes as head of household and deduct medical expenses you paid for your parents. For more information consult your tax advisor.
Questions & Answers
If you are financially supporting your parent, is he or she entitled to receive Social Security benefits based on your earnings?
If you are providing at least one-half of your parent’s support at the time of your death, and he or she is age 62 or over and is not entitled to a retirement benefit that is equal to or larger than the amount he or she would receive based on your earnings record, then he or she may be entitled to receive a parent’s Social Security benefit equal to 82.5 percent of your primary insurance amount (PIA).
What kind of advice will you need?
Housing and health care advice
If your parents are like many older individuals, where they live will depend upon how healthy they are. As your parents grow older, their health may deteriorate so much that they can no longer live on their own. At this point, you may need to find them in-home health care or health care within a retirement community or nursing home. On the other hand, you may want them to move in with you. In addition, you will need information on managing the cost of health care, long-term care insurance, major medical insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid.
- National Association for Home Care
- Visiting Nurse Associations of America
- Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (formerly known as the Health Care Financing Administration)
- American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging
- American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)
- Health Insurance Association of America
If your parents need help managing their finances, you may need to contact professionals whose advice both you and your parents can trust, including one or more of the following individuals or organizations.
- Your financial planner
- Your banker
- Your investment counselor
- Your tax attorney
- The Social Security Administration
Legal advisors can help you plan for your parents’ incapacity (including preparing documents such as power of attorneys, medical directives, and living wills), contact nursing home ombudsmen, set up and monitor guardianship, prepare wills, give tax advice, and provide bill payment and representative payee assistance. Many states provide funds for the delivery of free legal services to the elderly and many attorneys specialize in elder law, so finding legal advice shouldn’t be difficult.
- Your attorney
- National Association of State Units on Aging
- American Bar Commission on the Legal Problems of the Elderly
- Legal Counsel for the Elderly