I am about to become a caregiver to both parents; how do I begin?

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My parents are in their late 60's and have health situations.
Mother -- Pulmonary Hypertension and on oxygen
Step-Father - Had open heart surgery a month ago


They live in a town home but can no longer afford to live there.
I am single and live in a town home.
They have asked if I would live with them.
We would both need to sell and then find a home for the three of us.
They have no savings and no retirement--so, they would not be able to offer much assistance towards the purchase of a home.
They have social security; so, they would help with a bit of the bills/mortgage.
However, the mortgage would be in my name only and based on my income.


I just don't know how to process all this and how to begin.

Answers 1 to 10 of 10
Top Answer
Love17,

If your parents had the money to support themselves but wanted to live with you so you can be their caregiver it would be a very bad idea for you to get into that situation. In my previous line of work I saw elders move in with their adult children and there was enough money to go around. Big, beautiful homes outfitted to accommodate elderly people like walk-in showers, ramps, etc. These situations didn't work out because it's too stressful and difficult to care for 2 elderly parents at home. All the money in the world couldn't make it any easier although the adult children thought it would.

But your parents have little money to contribute to a home that you would have to buy in order to care for them. Social security isn't enough to pay the bills or the mortgage. I'm thinking that you would be paying the lion's share and that their money would help only a little.

Take time to really consider if this is what you want to do. Have you considered Medicaid for them and placing them in a nursing home?

Living and caring for one person is so stressful but you'll have 2 people to care for. Your life, as you know it, will be gone. All of your time and energy will go towards providing and caring for your parents.

I think you'll get a lot of responses. Please don't make any decisions yet.
Man, that's a lot to process. There is so much to consider. Have you had the chance to read many threads around this site about adult children who attempt to take care of their parents, especially, living in the house with them? And then, when there are financial limitations.....? It gets very challenging. I bet that you will get a lot of responses from people who tried it or who are doing it now. They will likely have lots to offer you.

One thing that I would strongly encourage is that you consult with an Elder Law/Real Property attorney (and who focuses on Medicaid eligibility) before selling or purchasing property with money that your parents contribute on. Would they take the proceeds from the sale of their house and put on your house? Well, I'd get legal advice on how this could affect things down the road. There are strict rules about qualification for Medicaid and I'd make sure that I was aware of how things would go, if your parents need it down the road, for long term care. And, I'd inquire about getting all their Durable POA, Healthcare POA, Advanced Medical Directive, etc., if they haven't done that yet.

I'd also consider what if they become very immobile and have to move to a long term care facility down the road? Then you would lose that money that you were relying on to pay the bills. I suppose you could sell, if that happens. You're smart to consider all possibilities and worst case scenario, before making a move.

Have you stayed with them for a couple of days to see how much is involved with helping them around the clock? Do you work full time?
Please find another path. There is another way. Your parents will qualify for Medicaid and you can find a nursing home for them. They will need so much care that your head will spin. Believe me when I say that my inlaws, who saved for retirement and lived (MIL now deceased) in independent living, strained my husband, me, and my marriage. I got sick helping care for them. Losing your health is not worth it. The sad reality is that caregivers often die before those for whom they are caring.
Love, you've gotten excellent advice, for short and long term considerations.

The only thing I have to offer are 2 suggestions:

1. If either of your parents is a veteran. The VA has programs that might help "aging in place."

2. Isolation, from your peers, and eventually co-workers. This can happen quickly or slowly, but it will eventually continue gradually with periodic accelerations. This isolation also increases stress, can cause a sense of being overwhelmed.

That isolation in time affects outlook and thinking processes, especially rational ones. It's harder to maintain perspective and sometimes harder to make good decisions, as the balance in your life shifts and becomes more and more focused on providing care for your parents, and less for you. Your health may, and probably will suffer, but there will be no one to care for you.

Then the caregiver can feel trapped, overwhelmed, and often resentful.
Love17, I think the situation here is the house and the expense of the house.

Your parents are pretty young. Hypertension [high blood pressure] is very common as one ages, both my parents had it, and I inherited it from them. It can be easily controlled with high blood pressure pills. May I ask what is the oxygen for?

What type of open heart surgery did your Dad have? Was it by-pass surgery? Usually one recovers from that to lead a normal life.

Now for the townhouse. What happened to the equity in your parent's house? Did they get a Reverse Mortgage or line of credit, and the equity has been used up?

If your parents still have equity, I wouldn't recommend it be used to help pay for the house, such as a down-payment, that would cause a major speed-bump should if within the next 5 years your parents need to apply for Medicaid to help pay for their medical care [which is different from Medicare]... Medicaid would see any funds from your parents put in a new home as a "gift" to you. Have Mom/Dad pay rent would be better.

I also would highly suggest that you speak with an Elder Law Attorney to see what is the best route to take regarding the house. Since your folks have very little money, I can see Medicaid on the horizon for them.

Ok, now for the issue thinking of having your parents move in with you.... please read this article before doing anything. https://www.agingcare.com/Articles/Living-with-Elderly-Parents-Do-You-Regret-the-Decision-133798.htm

If you parents and you still decide to move in together, you will need to start to cut back on your work hours, and eventually quit work altogether. Since your parents are only in their 60's, that means you are in your 30's or 40's. Could you afford to not have any income or health insurance for yourself for the next decade or more? My parents lived to be in their late 90's, both had hypertension, and Dad had heart issues.

Let us know what you plan to do.

Wow, there really is a lot to consider here. The first thing that strikes me is that your parents are very young, but don't appear to have terminal conditions. That means you could be signing up for a commitment of 20 years or more. We generally don't think that our parents can live that long, especially if they are frail or disabled at a young age, but it happens more than you'd expect. I committed to a situation that I thought would last 2-3 years, five at the absolute outside, and it's now almost 7 years later with no end in sight.

Another thing to realize is the emotional and physical strain of living with a sick or disabled person. It's not like setting another plate at the table. It's grueling, exhausting work to manage all their needs, especially with parents, most of whom seem to think that their every wish ought to be your command.

My biggest concern about this is the financial. If your parents live a long time, can you afford to keep up the larger living quarters? Remember that if one of them dies, their contribution will probably decrease, but the mortgage payment won't. Can you afford the place on what you expect to have as your retirement income, or will you need to keep working full-time until they both die?

That raises the next question. Your parents are likely to need more care over time - what if they grow to need so much care that you can't continue working full time? Or is there some other plan in place for when they need more care than you can provide while still holding down a job?

For that matter, what is the plan now for helping them with daytime needs like doctors' appointments? My mother has 4-6 doctors appointments per month, and there's only one of her. My sister and I split up those appointments, and luckily we're both retired. I can't imagine how I would work full time and deal with even one parent's medical appointments, let alone both.

Overall this strikes me as a very iffy proposition. I think you'd quickly be frazzled and exhausted caring for both of them even if you weren't working, but apparently you are to be the financial pillar of the arrangement as well as the caregiver. I just can't see it working for more than a very short time, a few months or a year maybe. Then what?

I think it's time to look at Medicaid care facilities for your parents. Maybe the proceeds from their townhouse could be used to finance private pay for a few months to help them have a better choice of facilities. Or else move them to a cheaper place and get them some in-home care through Medicaid so you can continue your employment without so much added responsibility.

Good luck! This is a sad position to be in, and I feel for you.
Linda22 and Garden Artist gave solid advice. Please use their comments as a checklist, as you work through next steps.

And to echo many others, your parents aren’t terribly decrepit. You are easily in for 20+ years of this. Do not sacrifice or shortchange your career and your earning potential. Do not.

There will always be options for your parents. There ain’t sh*t for adults who voluntarily exit the workforce in their 40s or 50s and hope to catch up later. You will be left behind. And years behind on 401K contributions, SS contributions and professional development.

And for most of us, kiss your paycheck goodbye and your health insurance disappears, too.

Another angle to explore: look long and hard at your parents’ finances. Many people — from all walks of life — cry poor when they really aren’t. Sometimes a holdover from old, tighter times. Sometimes invoked as a perverse good luck charm. Sometimes a diversionary tactic because they don’t want people (family, neighbors) to ask them for money.

Or because they want adult children to tend to them in their old age, even if they can afford some hired help or assisted living. Amongst their age group, it’s a (twisted) status symbol to have an adult child turning his/her life inside-out for them.

My mom sat on piles of money while her health went down the chute and her house fell apart around her, because she was fixated on passing my late stepdad’s investments on to his adult children. My mom engaged in some serious self-neglect, martyr stories and outright lies to achieve this folly.

My in-laws want everyone to believe they are one step from the poorhouse. Yes, they live check to check. They also single-handedly keep Bob Evans, Walmart and every thrift store within a 10-mile radius in business. Can’t pass up a bargain! And can’t spend one minute of their copious free time making a home-cooked meal. Next thing ya know....oops, we’re broke again.

I know I’m a tad cynical. But please be open to the possibility that your parents want you to only see this dilemma as they see it. Sometimes there’s more to the story than meets the eye. And the missing link is often lurking in the bank statements.

Good luck. And take care of yourself first. Seriously! It all starts there.... or it ends there. (((hugs)))
Love17, my FIL had quadruple bypass done...twice. He's now 96 and still living at home. My MIL had CHF and COPD for years ... she passed at 90. My point is that with meds, treatments, procedures, people are living into their 90's these days. Once you make this big life change, you will be committed for the long haul. And that could be another 25-30 years. At which point, you're ready to retire.

So please sit down and play 20 step mental chess. Sit down and look ahead. You have the advantage being able to research this, rather than having to take action fast due to a crisis.

They don't need much health help now, but they will. If your helping pay their expenses, how will that impact your own future? Should they need 24/7 care, you'll be tied to the house. Don't count on family or friends for respite - if you do have help, it's a bonus.

You'll be paying most of the expenses - what if they need more care at home and you have to cut your work hours ? Is that possible in your job? You're probably in your 40's and need to build your own retirement. How will that be impacted as they need more care?

Personalities - will you be able to live with your parents, who may well regard you as the kid. The dynamic between you will change, especially with two queen bees in one house.

Please take the time now to really look at how this will impact you in the next 10 years, 20 years. Read thru this forum about how people's lives have been impacted by living with parents and caring for them for many years.

Basically your parents right now are asking you to support them. Care giving will be on the table at a later date. Do you make enough money to support three people? What happens 10 years from now when they do need more hands on care, will you be able to afford to cut your hours or stop working all together and still support the three of you? Did you have hopes to meet and possibly marry someone because that is now off the table. And after all this is done will you have enough resources to take care of yourself in your old age as I assume there is no one for you to move in with.

Someone also mentioned the dynamic at home. Even though you will be supporting everyone will your parents treat you like an adult or will they act as if it is their house that they are letting you live in and not the other way around. It is very difficult to have several adults living in one household.

I wouldn't risk you future over their lack of planning for their own future.
I strongly urge you to not proceed with such an arrangement....I'm 81, have had open heart surgery, and still get around. In their late sixties, despite some infirmities, they might live for a good many years. You, however, may well not make it that long...You will have no life.
My suggestion is they sell their townhome, go to an assisted living facility, spend their equity and income as long as it lasts and perhaps they would qualify for Medicaid...(I say perhaps, because they may or may not qualify...There is a threshold of needed care that must be met to qualify for Medicaid...

I would not for a moment give a single thought to their spending the proceeds from the selling of their dwelling. Life is difficult...When they run out of money during a period of private pay care, then seek a different trail....it is not your responsibility to give your life (literally) for a potentially very long time.

There may also be huge problems if their proceeds from the sale of their townhome are combined with your funds from the sale of your townhome and purchase a house in your name only. (you may want to consider consulting an elder care lawyer on this particular issue.)

Just kidding, but if I were your uncle, I'd consider "kidnapping" you to keep you from entering into such an arrangement...(Again, just kidding.)

Grace + Peace,

Bob

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