With the onslaught of Baby Boomers reaching old age, the number of adult children caring for their parents has also skyrocketed. That number has tripled over the last 15 years, according to this MetLife study. The study estimates that nearly 10 million adult children are providing care for their parents. It’s no wonder that family issues arise when mom and/or dad’s needs make life a lot more complicated, especially for the primary caregivers. Family disputes between siblings and even parents and children can cause rifts in the family dynamics just when the need for solidarity is at its greatest. So how can a family keep those precious familial bonds during this stressful time?
The Answer for Many is Mediation
According to eldercare attorney and mediator Nancy Milton of Elk Grove, CA, three issues cause the most problems in a family: money, control and independence. Cultural values also create conflict. It is usually one family member that bears the load of nearly all the care and that can cause stress, burn-out and resentment. The other family members often feel guilt which makes for more conflict in the family. Milton says that talking and really listening in a safe, neutral environment can begin the healing and the understanding between family members.
The first issues heard during mediation are often just “the tip of the iceberg,” according to Milton. But once even a small agreement is made and put down in writing, bigger issues become easier to deal with. Courts have upheld these agreements and staying out of court saves thousands of dollars for everyone involved.
Planning and Documenting an Elder’s Wishes
Cecilia Tsang, attorney for Family Wealth Law Group of Sacramento said knowing the elders wishes can be the most important consideration and should happen while the elder is healthy both mentally and physically. Waiting until there are mental and physical problems often lands family members in court and a family division usually ensues. If the elder makes the decisions beforehand, they don’t feel like their independence has been taken away.
Having the necessary documents in place also makes caring much easier and the elder’s wishes are established and held safe. A medical directive, a financial power of attorney and a family trust is essential to good planning, according to Tsang.
Money, Money, Money
Compensating the primary caregivers should also be addressed as early as possible. It’s not cheap caring for an elderly loved one. According to MetLife, the total estimated aggregate lost wages, pension, and Social Security benefits of these caregivers of parents is nearly $3 trillion. Most of us cannot afford to shoulder all the expense. MetLife’s study found that women are nearly always the primary caregiver, while adult sons often help out financially. What’s not considered by many is the physical problems that primary caregivers experience. MetLife says, “Adult children 50+ who work and provide care to a parent are more likely to have fair or poor health than those who do not provide care to their parents.”
The other family members need to consider how much money is saved by one of their own caring for their aging parents. The average cost of assisted living is around $4,000 a month. That cost rises significantly in a memory care facility or in skilled nursing.