The need for a long-term plan for the aging population has never been greater in the United States — 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day. Middle-aged adults increasingly find themselves caring for elderly parents as well as their own children.

While helping your parents when they can no longer care for themselves is admirable, jeopardizing your own health or financial well-being only transfers the problem. As your parents get older, discussing their plans for the future and the role you will play in their care is essential. Without the proper strategy, this caretaking burden can lead to undue emotional and financial stress.

Maintaining Independence

Today, many people envision themselves aging in place — that is, remaining in their own home as long as possible. Proper planning and support may enable your parents to continue living independently longer, even if entirely avoiding full-time residential care may not be feasible.

Minimize Risk

Certain adjustments to an older person’s home can reduce the risk of injury. Falls are one of the biggest hazards for seniors — and often the catalyst for a move to a nursing home or assisted living facility. Taking steps like installing sturdy handrails on staircases, shower seats in the bath and safety handles in bathrooms can help reduce the risk of falls.

Practical Accommodations

Your parents’ current home may prove too costly to maintain or impractical to modify as their needs change. If they’d like to continue living independently, consider looking for housing where the layout and amenities are more accommodating for those with the potential for reduced mobility, such as a main-floor master bedroom and wider hallways.

Sharing a Space

If the space is available and safe for an elderly person, moving in with a family member might be a suitable short- or long-term possibility. This is a major decision that should be carefully considered by everyone involved. Providing housing is one thing, but providing care for someone whose mental or physical state has deteriorated is another matter.

Open Communication

If you’re worried that your parents may not be able to decide when they need more help, having a regular check-in meeting is a good way to gauge how they’re doing. These are some areas you may wish to review: Housework, food preparation, medication, bill payment and ability to drive.

Accompanying your parents to meetings with their doctors, attorneys and other professional advisers can provide insights into their ability to continue living on their own.

Available Resources

The federal Eldercare Locator can help you find services in your community and provides useful links to a variety of caregiving resources.

Depending on your state, you may be able to take a tax deduction for any care you provide to your parents. Save your receipts and consult your tax preparer to determine if you’re eligible for any tax benefits.

What about your own future?

As you work through these issues with your parents, you’ll likely start thinking about your own future needs.

Be sure to communicate your wishes to your adult children. Have these conversations early and often. It’s also wise to consult with your financial adviser, attorney and other professional advisers sooner rather than later to put an appropriate plan in place.

Holly Gallagher is a financial adviser located at Horizon Financial, 12935 South West Bayshore Drive Suite 220, Traverse City, MI 49684. She offers securities and advisory services as an Investment Adviser Representative of Commonwealth Financial Network®, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. She can be reached at (231) 941-6669 or at hollyg@cfnmail.com.

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