Financially and Emotionally Caring for Aging Parents: Independent Advisor Provides Five Tips for the Sandwich Generation

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Financial burdens created by the recession and the uncertainty in the transitioning market has exacerbated the often-stressful transition of becoming a caregiver for an aging parent. According to Calabasas, Calif.-based independent financial professional Brett S. Ellen, today’s economic strains are making it increasingly difficult for the 30 million plus Americans caring for an elderly parent. He says this should provide the impetus for planning ahead for the legal, financial, medical, housing and emotional logistics of caring for an aging parent.

Financial burdens created by the recession and the uncertainty in the transitioning market has exacerbated the often-stressful transition of becoming a caregiver for an aging parent.

The Evercare® Survey of the Economic Downturn and Its Impact on Family Caregiving found almost 20 percent of caregivers reported a decline in the quality of care their loved ones receive as a direct result of the recession. Another 14 percent said the amount of care they have been able to provide for others has decreased.

“Today’s economic strains are making it increasingly difficult for the 30 million plus Americans caring for an elderly parent,” says Brett Ellen, president of American Financial Network. “This should provide the impetus for planning ahead for the legal, financial, medical, housing and emotional logistics of caring for an aging parent.”

Ellen offers five tips for preparing to care for an aging parent:

  • Focus on what you can control. “Focus on the tasks you can do – like obtaining copies of your parents’ wills, creating trusts, reviewing health insurance benefits and writing advanced medical directives.” Ellen says there should also be a family member designated to handle all medical and financial affairs.
  • Minimize risk. “Most caregivers assess their parents’ insurance, but if you are providing care and financial support for parents in their 60s, you also need to ensure that you have adequate life insurance and disability income insurance to maintain your parents’ lifestyle as well as your family’s,” says Ellen. Reviewing or purchasing long-term care insurance to ensure income is provided to a spouse, as well as for the care of an aging parent, may also offset risk.
  • Review your options. Ellen advises caregivers to keep all options open when navigating the needs of the parent and those of his or her family. For many, that involves having the aging parent move in, at least temporarily. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of parents who've moved in with adult children rose 67 percent between 2000 and 2007. Other choices include assisted living, nursing homes and continuing-care centers. When evaluating a care facility, talk to staff and residents and always have the contract reviewed by an attorney before signing.
  • Ask for help. Consider engaging a geriatric case worker to help navigate the maze of public and private sector programs. “Ask your parent’s hospital discharge planner or an elder law attorney for recommendations,” says Ellen. “You also can consult with National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers or other programs to support the financial and emotional needs of caregivers.”
  • Don’t overlook your own finances and retirement. Juggling parenting, a job and the role as a caregiver will be tough, but resist the urge to stop working, says Ellen. With high unemployment, it could be tough to get back into the workforce and while out of the workforce a caregiver will lose benefits such as company-sponsored health care and retirement savings programs. “Most importantly, make sure that caregiving expenses don’t stop you from funding your own retirement accounts,” says Ellen.

“It could be argued that we are in the situation of so many Americans caring for their elderly parents because of poor planning to begin with,” says Ellen. “It’s vital that individuals do their own proper planning now to help avoid having to rely on their children down the road.”

About Brett Ellen and American Financial Network
Brett Ellen, founder and president of American Financial Network, is a financial planner and investment advisor representative with Securities America Advisors who specializes in wealth management and corporate benefit planning services. Additionally, Ellen established and is an active part of the Financial Solutions Alliance, a network of financial service providers from across the country that work collaboratively to address the financial and business needs of their clients. Unprecedented in his ability to serve both individual investors and corporate planners, Ellen is recognized by Securities America as their top advisor.

Ellen, who believes strongly in giving back to his community, received the 2009 Investment News Community Leadership Award in Mentoring. He and his firm actively support a variety of non-profit organizations. In 2008, the Muscular Dystrophy Association awarded Ellen the prestigious Humanitarian of the Year Award. In 2001 he and his wife, inspired by their children, formed their own non-profit. TKOHelpingHands.org (Turn Kindness On) promotes community involvement and social responsibilities in young children. Ellen also writes a finance blog for children - http://www.KidsFinanceCoach.com - to help them understand important concepts and become financially literate and responsible adults. For more information about Brett Ellen, visit http://www.afn-net.com.

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Brett S. Ellen

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