For baby boomers with elderly parents, the current recession can become a financial burden for everyone involved. This is especially true if you have parents living with you or you have become their sole caretaker. More than 17 million baby boomers are now spending more than 10 percent of their own income taking care of their parents. This can cause a myriad of problems for the one taking on such responsibilities. Whether it is putting less money away in the savings account or adding more debt to their own household, it can put the caretaker in a difficult position. Add to this the fact that most elderly parents often do not want to discuss financial matters with their children, and it becomes that much harder to broach the subject. As one individual noted:
"I'm a 59 year old single woman. I live with both my parents – ages 86 and 87, respectively. I cannot afford my own apartment because I supplement my parents' rent, food and other expenses. Although I retired two years ago, my pension does not provide me with enough money to pay all the bills of the household. I have to work full time, from home, in order to meet expenses. We never talk about financial matters as my father refuses to do so. He is a very proud man and has never asked for help from anyone. My mother is much more open to discussing finances than he, but he will not discuss things with her, either. I just have to take it one day at a time and hope that they remain relatively healthy."
At a time when many baby boomers are now parenting their own parents, it's by no means an easy task to discuss financial problems when may arise. Of course, in some circumstances you can probably take the initiative and make decisions for them – but that's not always the answer, and there's always the risk that doing so will backfire. The best way to successfully address any financial problem is to begin a dialogue on the subject; not necessarily all at once, but when financial matters arise and there is no other reasonable option available.
Where do you begin? That can be the tricky part. For some caretakers, it may be difficult to discuss the topic openly. Thus, it could help to put it into words by writing a letter expressing how you feel and letting them know that you want to help them as much as they have always helped you. Another way to talk about finances is ask to have your name put on their financial accounts explaining that if anything were to happen, the money could be accessed easily for the surviving parent. Ask that you be given power of attorney, and draw up a health care proxy for them as well. It may be rough going at first, but at least it's a start.
All their lives, our parents have made sacrifices so that we can become successful in the endeavors that we chose for our lives. The least that we can do is help to make their remaining years peaceful, comfortable and secure.