Your mother is only living on Social Security and little else and is barely getting by. Your father can only afford an assisted living facility with poor care. Should you and your siblings help them financially? Do you split it evenly despite a large difference in income among siblings?
Unfortunately due to our own spending habits or unforeseen circumstances, we don’t always have enough money to live our lives with enough money to have a comfortable life until we die. If our kids have the ability and desire to help us how should they share that burden?
Adult children or relatives are under no legal obligation to help us financially in our old age in this country. Social Security and Medicaid are our safety nets. While many may feel an obligation because their parent raised them with such loving care, others may feel differently. Abusive, neglectful parents may not expect to see their children care for them in old age.
If you want to help your parent to what extent should you? Unless you have plenty of financial capacity, or feel an extreme obligation, your parent does not need to live in a million dollar condo on the beach or in an assisted living where they have a different artist in residence every month. A good house in a safe neighborhood or a clean long-term care facility with friendly staff is enough. All that said, I have a friend who lives in a small town where most of assisted living facilities are not well rated and the only good one was significantly more money. He had to choose between paying more or driving forty minutes to a reasonably priced, well run home. He chose in the end to have his mother live closer to him and delay his retirement. Your own circumstances will make a difference.
If you have decided that you and your siblings want to help financially but one of you earns significantly more, should you still split the cost equally? If the more well off sibling is willing to contribute more, then let it happen. The impact on each of your households will be equal. There are other responsibilities the sibling not able to contribute as much can do. Taking a parent to an appointment is time consuming and may be able to ease the burden of the wealthier sibling who may have a very demanding job. The same goes for paying bills, or calling insurance, pharmacy, etc.
What if one sibling refuses, cannot help financially or time-wise but you can? You must think about the end result which is setting your parent up with a decent quality of life. If you refuse to help because your sibling won’t contribute, the only person you are hurting is your parent. Many of us grow up with different memories of being raised in the same household. We also have spouses who feel differently about either their in-laws or household priorities. Let this fight go and just have the comfort of knowing you did what was right for you and your parent.
We all deserve to live a dignified life at the end of our lives despite our financial situation. We hope our children will help if needed. If you are still working and reading this, please save for retirement and don’t put your children in the situation of needing to helping you and hurting their relationship with each other.