Connie Brezik

There may come a time when your parents need financial help. Maybe they experienced unexpected health issues, didn’t adequately save and invest or had to support their own parents when they were in need. Remember, these are the people who raised you, bought your first car, put you through college and kept you going when you struggled to pay bills.

As we get older, our roles may switch, with children providing needed caregiving and financial support to their parents. For parents, this role reversal can be difficult to accept if they, like most, wish to stay independent and not become a burden on anyone. Just as a young child often says, “I’ll do it myself,” your parents too may tell you they can do it themselves when in fact they cannot. Finding creative ways to provide support in a caring, respectful way is a win-win situation.

Housing changes and challenges are one of the most common issues adult children must address as their parents’ mental and physical needs and abilities evolve. Having to move from a long-time residence can produce stress and often sadness. But living alone in a large house can be lonely and no longer practical, especially if your parents live far from you or other family.

If your aging parents are able to remain in their home but fall short in covering monthly expenses, consider paying some of their bills directly. You could choose what is affordable for you, such as the utility bills or their insurance premiums. Additional outright cash gifts could supplement their lifestyle and prevent them from depleting all their assets.

When staying in the house is no longer practical, consider moving them to a small apartment or condo with few upkeep requirements. Doing so can significantly reduce living expenses, and the house can be sold to provide resources for the rest of their lives.

Moving your parents close to family can make things easier for everyone. Family members can make regular visits to check on them, and proximity allows them to be involved in their children and grandchildren’s lives. The time and expense previously spent to be with distant parents can be eliminated along with the constant worrying. And grandparents make great babysitters!

If your parents do not have a home to sell but do have sources of income, such as a pension, Social Security benefits or investment proceeds, consider using your resources to purchase a condo. They can pay you rent to feel they are contributing. Once they are gone, the condo can be sold or rented to someone else to provide you a monthly income. As a landlord, you claim the rent as income but get to take tax deductions for repairs, property taxes, homeowner association dues, insurance premiums and other costs. Before taking this step, make sure that going into the landlord business is something you really want to do.

Children with large homes may consider moving their parents in with them. This can be a great solution because your parents can help defray costs while also helping with cooking and maintaining the home. Having everyone live under one roof can provide a sense of security and belonging. In some cultures around the world, many generations live under one roof as a matter of course.

Negotiating cost-sharing with your siblings can be tricky. If all of your brothers and sisters are financially sound and able to pitch in to help your parents, that is good. In other families, some siblings will be able to help and others will not. Perhaps those that cannot contribute financially can provide more hands-on help, such as taking parents to medical appointments, helping them pay bills, cooking meals and organizing transportation.

We all will eventually confront a situation similar to the one our parents are facing as they age, and we all at some point will need care and kindness. Hopefully your children will see how well you treated your parents and do the same for you when the time comes.

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