CARING FOR YOUR ELDERLY PARENTS LEADS MANY BABY BOOMERS DOWN THE PATH TOWARDS DIVORCE
A guest post by: Alex Coliagnese While divorce rates across the country are steadily climbing, courtesy of the many stressors couples face, baby boomers find themselves, and their marriages, in serious martial predicaments. Having survived the pressures associated with raising children, paying off mortgages, paying down debt and avoiding the dreaded divorce court that many of their social peers have endured, baby booming couples on the cusp of retirement breathe a sigh of relief, finally ready to enjoy "the good years" with one another. However, few, if any, of these couples have considered one of the newest financial and emotional obligations they have yet to face...the care of their elderly parents.With an ever-increasing elderly population, many baby boomers find themselves moving their college kids out and moving their parents, or worse yet, their in-laws, in. With the stock market's recent plunge and the rising costs of in-home caretakers, assisted living homes and nursing facilities, many couples find themselves with no other choice but to care for their aging, and often ailing, parents themselves. The financial and emotional burdens associated with this new, and often unexpected responsibility, are nothing less than overwhelming for many marriages. From a financial standpoint, most couples have not prepared for the costs associated with caring for their parents. Of course there is no formal obligation to care for your parents but many people find it a moral duty of sorts. Throughout the marriage, paying off the mortgage or paying for college might have seemed the last and final hurdle before enjoying retirement bliss. However, the new-found realization of caretakers, medical expenses and an additional mouth to feed are responsibilities that many couples are not financially prepared to handle. For these couples, visions of the retirement finish line have once again been pushed out of sight, as the realization of their financial obligations for the care of their parents are just approaching the starting line. With the sudden decline in the stock market, many baby boomers have seen their 401K's and retirement savings depleted. The increasing pressures of returning to or continuing in the workforce in and effort to replenish those monies, coupled with the exorbitant costs of caring for their aged parents, many couples are finding the financial stressors impossible to cope with. The emotional frustrations associated with the care of aging parents, are often another critical strain on marriages. As with the often astronomical costs of child care today, caring for aging parents often forces one of the spouses to stay home to care for the elderly parent. Moving from a dual income to a single income or worse yet, having to stretch a single income further, leads to obvious financial stress. However, caring for the elderly parent on a round the clock basis, cooking, cleaning, changing diapers and distributing medication, can take an emotional toll, leaving the stay-at-home spouse emotionally bankrupt, frustrated and/or resentful. The emotions associated with the care of an aging parent or in-law can be overwhelming. Suddenly the person you have depended on for care and support for most of your life is now depending on you in their final days. Unfortunately, because relationships and individuals differ from family to family, there is often little you or your spouse can do in advance to prepare for the emotional turmoil that you will undoubtedly undergo during the caretaking process. While caring for an ill or aging parent is, for most, a labor of love, it can nonetheless lead to an unanticipated and incomprehensible financial and emotional strain on the marriage. So what do you do if you find your marriage faced with this challenge? As with all challenges that married couples face, it is imperative that couples keep the lines of communication open. Before moving the parent into the marital residence, be sure all financial options have been explored, talk to your spouse about the pros and cons of moving a parent in, decide if there are any other viable alternatives and discuss the potential financial and emotional implications of your decision. Finally, if you find yourself and your marriage facing the dilemma of caring for your parents, keep in mind this brief check list of considerations and discussion points: 1. Veterans - is your father (in-law) or mother (in-law) a veteran? If so, they may be entitled to veterans benefits or admission into a veterans hospital. This may be a more cost-effective caretaking alternative for you and your family to consider. 2. Parent's Assets - what is the extent of your parent's financial assets? Can you finance their hospitalization, in-house care, or assisted living facility using their own assets? Is it more cost-effective to deplete their assets and then make a one-time contribution using your money to pay the difference? 3. Medicare/Medicaid - do your parent's qualify? Not sure? Check out websites like the one listed below. Through these government programs, all or some of your parent's cost of care may be covered. http://www.medicare.gov/ 4. Assistance from Siblings and Family - if you have decided to care for your parent, do you have siblings or other family members that are able to contribute financially? Are your siblings or other family members able to assist in the physical care of the parent, perhaps doing the grocery shopping, taking them to their medical appointments or taking them on weekends to alleviate the primary caretaker? 5. Make time for your Marriage - many couples, caring for aging parents or not, fail to make this a priority. Making the time on a daily basis to reconnect is critical, especially during times of stress and pressure. 6. Find a Support Group- while talking to a professional therapist or your best friend can be a great outlet for the new emotions you will be feeling, finding a support group in your community comprised of fellow caretakers can be a great way to talk, vent and seek advice from your peers in similarly situated positions. Check your paper, community calendar or religious bulletin for a list of support groups in your area.7. Don't be afraid to ask for help - whether it is from your spouse, your children, your neighbor or your family, don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Many of us try to be everything to everybody, not realizing that we can't be anything to anybody unless we are recharged, refreshed and refilled emotionally and spiritually. Take the time to breathe, relax and refresh your mind, body and soul.