Age-Old Problem

4 Mar

Letterbalm Old Couple Holding HandsDear LetterBalm: My parents are getting up there in age. They’re in their early 60s and still working at jobs they love. Last week, they called a family meeting with us three grown kids. They announced that they plan to travel when they retire at 65 and that we shouldn’t expect any big inheritance. This didn’t upset us, but what they said next did. My parents told us that they expect us to care for them in their old age because they’ve made no provision for this. They ordered us to care for them – including the surviving spouse – in their home, not in assisted living or a nursing home. And, they will have no money for professional caregiving, so the burden is on us. My siblings and I are appalled. We have family obligations, mortgages, college for the kids. We’re certainly concerned about our parents’ future, but this seems unfair and unnecessarily burdensome, especially the time we need to spend. What can we say to them? 

–Anxious Kids

Others may disagree, but Ms. L.B. thinks that, certainly, parents can spend all their money any way they want – but they shouldn’t expect their children to drop everything and care for them at the end of their lives. That your parents intend to use up their capital traveling the world and not consider options for their future care is unreasonable and places a big burden on their kids. You and your sibs must see what you can do now to deflect their plans.  See if you and your siblings can talk your parents into a meeting with an eldercare specialist who can review choices. A consultation with a lawyer versed in these matters would help as well. In the meantime, you kids need to call a family meeting and say something like this:

Mom and Dad, we’ve called this family meeting to discuss what you told us about your care when you get older. We’re concerned because you seem to have rejected all options other than care by us at home. This may not be the best solution – you’re healthy now, but nobody knows what your health will be in the future. It may be beyond our capacity to take care of you, even to not being able to address pain, mobility and psychological problems. There are issues that none of us is knowledgeable about, and you need to educate yourselves before you can make a good decision. Can we propose a compromise? We’ve done some research and come up with a few names of eldercare specialists who can review the whole landscape of care, including financial and eligibility issues. Each comes highly recommended. We also looked into an attorney who is well-informed about setting aside funds for this purpose and structuring your estate. We want to help, and we certainly want your senior years to be the best they can. It would be awful if you weren’t safe and comfortable. Can we work together on this and, with you, set up consultations?

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