Clients who will care for parents in their own homes still need to think about finances. (AP Photo/Thomas Kienzle)

When faced with an aging parent with declining functional or cognitive abilities, children may find themselves with a number of questions and decisions.

What type of care does mom or dad need? What financial resources are available to meet her/his care needs? What’s the most cost effective way to manage those resources?

Can the level of care be accomplished in their home; or has the time come to think about assisted living or even a nursing home?

Another option to consider is to bring a parent into your own home.

None of these decisions are easy and take considerable thought, planning and family discussion.

This past March marked 29 years that my mother-in-law has lived with my wife and me. That’s correct. I have lived with my mother-in-law for almost three decades! I have been called both crazy and a saint.

As a widow in her mid 60s and living close by, it made perfect sense to the three of us to bring the two households together.

For my mother-in-law, she no longer had to worry about caring for a house and being alone.

For us, we had a built-in babysitter for our two young sons and someone who could run some errands as we were both building our careers.

Though clearly more of a win for us at that time, my wife and I had no delusions that someday the tables of dependency would turn.

Having a parent/grandparent in the house can be both a challenge and a blessing.

Yes, as in any relationship, we have had our ups and downs, disagreements and temper flares. But the bond my sons have with their “bubby” (as she is now known to all who know her) is irreplaceable and the experience and wisdom of an “elder” has often come in handy.

This July, my mother-in-law turned 95 and time has taken its toll. Though quite cognitively intact, severe arthritis has taken its toll on her functionality. She lives with chronic pain, has significant difficulty in getting up from a chair and has needed a rolling walker for over a decade. Even with the walker, her stability is marginal. She has had several falls, fortunately without serious injury.

For the past three years, we have had a companion in the house during the day while my wife and I are at work. More recently, my wife assists her with showering and occasionally helps manage her personal care. 

Caring for an elderly parent at home can be quite stressful.

A number of studies have shown that caregivers have an increase in anxiety, depression and musculoskeletal disorders. I have seen this first-hand as there are times when my wife is obviously stressed, trying to meet the demands of her Mom after working a full day.

Considering bringing mom and/or dad into one’s home is a big step and requires careful thought and an understanding of the reality now and in the future. In addition to assisting with any personal needs, there are a number of other important items that your client must be aware of and ready to take on.

Based on my experience, here are the top items that you should flag for your clients facing similar situations so they can consider what’s best for their aging parents:

  • 1. Carefully review the living space to make sure there is: 
    • a. Adequate accessibility, particularly to the bathroom and shower.
    • b. A clear path without items that an individual could trip over. Home modifications may need to be made.
  • 2. Establish a daily routine and divide responsibilities (e.g., medication and financial management, doctor visits) amongst family members.
  • 3. Avoid social isolation by providing outings for shopping, entertainment and social interactions.
  • 4. Be sure to take breaks and arrange for caregiver coverage when you are away.

It’s also important to provide clients with resources.

As a financial professional, you can assist clients in planning for the costs associated with care.

Clients should also consider consulting with social workers, geriatric care managers or health care providers.

Professionals can provide additional input into the decision making process and help your clients decide what’s best for their family members.

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