Working couples facing care responsibility for their elderly parents

As our population ages, there appears to be a growing concern from couples who both work, as to how they are going to manage the care and wellbeing of their ageing parents. Every family situation is different because the degree of dependency of every parent will be different.

Once again, it’s never too early to begin to plan for the future when there becomes a sense that this issue looks a future possibility.

Here are a few option alternatives for you to consider:

  1. Care for parents in their home
    The cheapest option is for immediate and wider family to care for parents in their own home for as long as possible.
    This means all the onus and responsibility is not on the family. There are quite a considerable number of assistance options available. For example, through your family doctor (in conjunction with the District Health Board) support can be arranged for different health care people with different skills to come to your parents’ home and attend to their care in the home after an assessment has been made.
    District nurses also visit homes to attend to any medical condition one or both of your parents may be experiencing. Organisations such as Enliven can be a good support and the ‘meals on wheels’ organisation can assist also.
  2. Adding a ‘granny flat’ to your home
    For those fortunate to have the area, consider the option of adding onto your existing home to create a ‘granny flat’. This will enable your parents to downsize from their current house and come and live closer to you. Included in this discussion would be the subject of your parents’ finances. So many older people are reluctant to change from the status quo, but, downsizing when the time comes is a logical thing to do. Your parents (and this applies to all of us) must realise that they are not going to be able to take their house with them when they pass away, so why not sell the house, and if the family ‘buy’ into the idea of their elderly parents living close by to one of their children, then use some or all of the net proceeds of the sale of their house to fund the granny flat build? The same services can be applied to this situation as to that described in 1. above.
  3. Live in Caregiver
    The family might like to consider the possibility of a ‘live in’ caregiver. This will cost more if someone is staying overnight with your parents. This practice is not that common, but certainly if the situation warrants this, then this option can work well. There is a nurses’ organisation that will provide a nurse to execute this service if the family decides they wish implement this.
  4. Lifestyle/ Retirement Village
    The housing consideration (even without a health issue attached to one or both of your aging parents) is one that will have to ultimately be discussed. In the Planning Your Retirement section in our 65 Not Out Book there are written articles on the different Lifestyle/Retirement Village option models. Basically, if you are considering the possibility of downsizing your aging parents into a Lifestyle/ Retirement village, then the two options are a Licence to Occupy versus Freehold ownership model.
    Many Retirement Villages have facilities that cater for late in life needs such as rest home care and hospital care. So there is the advantage of a natural progression with needs as time passes. Most, if not all the Retirement Village operators in New Zealand such as Summerset and Ryman for example, have a Licence to Occupy model, not a Freehold ownership model.
  5. Downsizing to a Villa
    In our book 65 Not Out we discuss in depth the matter of downsizing to a Villa in a Village. This step alone will ease your parents’ burden of having to look after a larger property. There can be real positives in moving earlier than later to a secure village. Just think of security, lesser chance of injury, social contact, easier to arrange care, and the costs are a lot less than owning a bigger home in a suburb.

As always, the earlier you begin to think about and plan care for your aging parents the better. There are a number of pathways you can take as we have outlined above. The best thing about having a plan, is that if a sudden health event comes along to one of your parents, then that plan can become an action. You’re already to go.

A variety of circumstances and factors will determine which pathway you and your family will choose.

Do not be afraid to discuss this with your wider family and your trusted advisors like your Accountant, your Solicitor and your Doctor. They can assist. It’s not easy dealing with anything to do with your ageing loved ones, and there are always people close to you who are willing to assist you. Best wishes.


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