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Sole Child? Planning Ahead: Four Steps to Care for Aging Parents

Being the sole caregiver for elderly parents can be an immensely challenging task, especially when there are no siblings to share the responsibility. Michael Hausknost, a financial planner from Long Beach, California, knows this reality all too well. At 60 years old, he finds himself solely responsible for the care of his 90-year-old mother, Eva, who is transitioning from an assisted living facility to one specialized in memory care. With his father having passed away years ago and Eva’s other relatives residing thousands of miles away in Europe, Hausknost shoulders the emotional and financial burden entirely on his own.

The scenario Hausknost faces reflects a growing trend in American society, where an increasing number of individuals find themselves as the only child tasked with caring for aging parents. Census Bureau data indicates a shrinking family size, with a record 19% of American women aged 40-44 having only one child, compared to 9.6% in 1976. This demographic shift places unique challenges on only children like Hausknost, impacting their careers and financial stability.

To navigate these challenges effectively, only children must take proactive steps to prepare for their parents’ care. Planning ahead becomes crucial, as Hausknost exemplifies by having started preparations two decades prior, anticipating his mother’s longevity and financial needs. It’s essential to explore various financial options, utilizing the parents’ resources such as savings, insurance policies, or property assets before dipping into personal finances. However, it’s crucial to avoid jeopardizing one’s own financial future by overextending oneself financially.

While the temptation to become a full-time caregiver may arise, especially in the absence of siblings, it’s essential to consider the long-term implications on one’s career and financial stability. Maintaining employment not only ensures access to benefits and support programs but also provides financial security for both the caregiver and their family.

Moreover, being an only child doesn’t mean facing these challenges alone. Seeking assistance from friends, relatives, or professional caregivers can alleviate the burden and provide valuable support. Building a professional team comprising financial planners and estate lawyers can help navigate complex legal and financial matters. Additionally, joining support groups and accessing resources like the Eldercare Locator can offer valuable guidance and emotional support throughout the caregiving journey.

In essence, while being an only child may present unique challenges in caregiving, proactive planning, utilizing resources wisely, and seeking support from various sources can help navigate these challenges more effectively. By taking these steps, caregivers like Hausknost can ensure the well-being of their aging parents while safeguarding their own financial stability and career prospects.

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