6 costs to expect when caring for aging parents

elderly couple

Having an aging parent live with you in your home can be much cheaper than moving mom or dad into an independent or assisted-living facility.

But having another person in your home won't be cost-free.

"Be prepared for unexpected expenses, especially if your parent does not have a pension and will be depending on you for support," says Glenda Standeven, an inspirational speaker who has shared her home with her mother for the past 17 years.

Knowing what's in store can help you plan ahead. It can also get you ready for a money-related conversation with mom or dad, which you should have before you start sharing an address.

Here, experts explain pivotal costs to consider when an aging parent moves in.


Cost 1. Remodeling expenses

To grant everyone room, you may need to add on to your home or convert an area into private living quarters.

Adding a bathroom can cost more than $47,000, according to Remodeling Magazine. A master suite addition could run more than $130,000.

Even if you purchased a house that includes space for your aging parent, you might have to put in safety features.

Small changes can reduce the risk of falling, explains Sharon Roth Maguire, chief clinical quality officer for BrightStar Care, a national full-service home care agency that provides both medical and nonmedical care.

Consider adding grab bars in the shower, a shower chair and nonskid mats. Clear paths of clutter, suggests Maguire. To make lighting adequate, you might purchase a motion-activated night light or touch-sensitive table lamps.

Also consider keeping everything for your parent on the first floor to eliminate the need to go upstairs.


Cost 2. Lost hours of work

If your parent has certain medical conditions, you may have to spend time lining up doctor appointments, filling prescriptions and heading to weekly therapy sessions. You may also need to take mom or dad to the bank and grocery store.

If you regularly take off work for those tasks, you could face lower wages or a reduced salary.

If you won't have time to do this, connect with a local taxi company or senior transportation center, Standeven suggests.

Even with the help of local transportation, you might have to ask for hours off work when your parent first moves in.

That's especially true for a loved one who previously lived in a different city or state and is new to your area.

To introduce your parent to the community, check out exercise classes, senior centers and other organizations that offer activities that might be of interest.


Cost 3. Bringing in additional help

If your parent needs help with personal care, the national median daily rate of a home health aide is about $150, according to the 2018 Genworth Cost of Care Survey.

As you research caregiver options, ask about qualifications.

In addition to having a solid set of credentials, "you'll want to know if they have insurance coverage," Maguire says. You won't want to be held liable if a caregiver is injured in your home.

Also, look into resources that could help pay for home care.

Some long-term care insurance policies may cover in-home care, and veterans might qualify for help through the Department of Veterans Affairs' Aid & Attendance and Housebound program.

If your parent has a limited income, check the local office on aging for any assistance available for daily needs.


Cost 4. All of the little things that add up

Chances are, "when mom moves in, you're already thinking about water and electricity," notes Laurel Jones, a professional health care advocate and CEO of Infinity Business and Concierge Services in the Washington, D.C., area

But keep in mind, your parent might want special food, need meal replacement supplements or request household supplies that weren't in your budget before.

If you previously turned down the heat in winter during the hours you spent at work, plan on the thermostat staying at a comfortable temperature throughout the day. The same is true for air conditioning during the summer.

And if you opt to have your parent leave the home for portions of the day, those costs will need to be factored in as well.

The national median rate for adult day health care, which might include programs that provide transportation, personal care and therapy-related activities, is about $56 a day, according to the 2018 Genworth Cost of Care Survey.


Cost 5. Medical expenses

"With medications, a lot of times a portion is covered by insurance," Jones says.

You'll need to take a careful look at what's not covered and whether your parent can pay for some or all of those expenses. Certain prescriptions, such as drugs to prevent the progression of Alzheimer's, can be pricey.

Also, be aware of over-the-counter medicines, such as calcium supplements or vitamins like B12. "Those are usually out of pocket," explains Jones.

You might have to help pay for unexpected costs such as hearing aids. The average price of a digital hearing aid runs approximately $1,500, according to the National Institutes of Health. High-end hearing devices might cost between $3,000 and $5,000.

As your parent's mobility decreases, investments such as a walker, scooter or bathtub lift to help with personal care might be needed.


Cost 6. Long-term expenses

Even if your parent is in good health now and can contribute financially, the situation may change a few years from now.

Mom or dad could outlive retirement funds. And if your loved one's health deteriorates, you may need to look for a new living situation, such as a nursing home.

The average daily cost of a private nursing home room was $299 in 2018, according to the Genworth survey.

Loretta Veney, author of Being My Mom's Mom, is already looking for future financial help for her 85-year-old mother.

"I'm trying to plan for as much as I can," Veney says. "I think she's going to live a long time."

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