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Cross Roads: Family 1st
Old 01-27-2016, 12:11 AM   #1
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Cross Roads: Family 1st

Greetings All,

Most recently, I found myself at a crossroad of either caring for my elderly parents full-time or continue a career spanning 19 years and counting....

My parents are both approaching 80 years of age and their health has been ailing them particularly over the past few years. Dad is in the mid-stages of Alzheimer's and essentially homebound. Mom has her own health issues of which poor vision is the biggest worry. On top of this, they both care for my sister who is in her mid-40's and mentally disabled. She was born this way and has been under my parents care from birth.

I'm anticipating that my mom will no longer be driving by the end this year given her vision issues and all 3 family members will require a caregiver(s) in some form or another. Mom's burden between taking care of my dad and sister has taken a big toll on her while setting aside her own health needs in a very selfless manner.

Elderly neglect is a rampant problem in our society and I have ruled out a nursing home or hired helpers as a possibility - no way, no chance, nada!

They have steady revenue streams from rental property, SS and to a modest extent, revenue opportunities from IRA and individual stock accounts. Their home is paid-off and assets include:
  • primary residence: $500k
  • rental property: $900k
  • IRA and cash equivalent accounts: $400
  • sister: SSI benefits
In their Living Trust, they have me inheriting their entire estate with the understanding that I would care for my sister for the rest of her life. Both life insurance policies total $200k

Me? 45/single/no kids with:
  • Equity between primary residence and condo rental: $225k
  • Stocks and cash equivalents: $200K
  • IRA: $100k
  • My job brings in $140k; rental net neutral.
Over the past 2 years I've tried to balance a demanding job while assisting my parents and sister w/o skipping a beat. Now and w/ regular business travel, I'm burned out doing both and would like to quit my job and focus on the family to ensure they're well-taken care of by their son and not "strangers".

Question: could I afford to retire at 45 (today) given the combined asset portfolios? I want to make certain my family and sister are properly cared for in their deepest time of need and I'm willing to give up a career to make this happen!

Viewpoints or those sharing a similar situation are welcomed!


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Old 01-27-2016, 05:34 AM   #2
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First, you have my sympathy for your difficult situation. It is nice to see that you are willing to provide the support that your family needs. I did not try to perform a total financial analysis, but want to suggest some things for you to look at. To decide if you can give up your job at this point, I think that you should do a cash flow analysis. What would the expenses be if you stop working and become the overall caregiver? Not working would reduce your expenses to some degree, but you also need to make some allowance for inflation. What is the ability of the combined assets to generate income? At that point, are the future expenses covered? If not, I would suggest that a possible place for improvement is in your and your parents' primary residences. It is likely that if you were willing, you could sell both houses and find one less expensive home for you all. That would likely reduce expences and free up some assets for further income generation.

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Old 01-27-2016, 05:44 AM   #3
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Caregiver, you have my utmost respect for stepping up to the plate and taking care of your family. My first question is in relation to your job. Can you downsize your travel demands and/or responsibilities at work? Probably with a pay cut. Maybe propose a 50/50 telework schedule that frees you up to help with the family. The question of can you afford?? depends on your expenses. That is your key factor. Good luck.
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" People say I'm lazy, dreaming my life away Well, they give me all kinds of advice designed to enlighten me When I tell them that I'm doing fine watching shadows on the wall "Don't you miss the big time, boy. You're no longer on the ball" -John Lennon-
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Old 01-27-2016, 06:36 AM   #4
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You parents must be collecting SS, how much is it? How much does their rental income bring in? How much does it cost to support them now?

Will your sister be living in the same house as you and your parents? Is the IRA/cash of your parents $400, or $400K?

With only $700K at most in liquid assets, and needing a 40-year retirement, I do not see how it is possible. Especially with 3 dependents.

If your parents have enough SS to keep themselves solvent, and your sister has enough SSI to pay her own way, it may be possible, but very frugal. You must live in the same household.

Look for any social programs that are out there, I am sure you will get free medical, and possibly even some financial support as you are taking care of your parents. They and your sister are likely to be classified as dependents. They can likely get some care taker as part of medicare.

You can also consider a move to a place like Costa Rica, where medical care is much less.

Of course, if you do this plan on selling assets as soon as your parents are no longer living. You will need the cash.
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Old 01-27-2016, 06:39 AM   #5
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Are you the only other sibling?
If you sell or rent your present house and move in with your parents that should reduce your expenses by having only 1 household of expenses.
But please do yourself a favor and speak with a professional or a support group to realize what you will be facing by doing this. You will be giving up a lot of your personal life. It is admirable to want to do this but you want to be able to do it without having any regrets. Good luck.
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Old 01-27-2016, 06:49 AM   #6
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Many thanks Doc and Bigdawg for the reply.

Frankly, I'm looking at hanging up my boots on the corporate life for good given my set of circumstances. I've learned through experience that if you want family matters pertaining to health, doctors appointments etc done right - you need to do it yourself.

While on business travel, I've coordinated transportation for medical visits on behalf of my folks - appointments which took days sometimes weeks to confirm only to have the person flake at the very last minute. Mind you, I'm still a couple of thousand miles away believing things would proceed as planned only to be disappointed and utterly stressed having to restart the process all over again (sound familiar?). The balancing act is tough and I'm told doesn't get easier. In fact, quite the opposite. I need to maintain my own health in order to provide the needed care of my loved ones.

The medical system is getting increasing difficult and cumbersome for my folks to maneuver in and often times I need to assist with arrangements for them or my sister - who also requires long term care. Try doing this during the work day with back to back meetings and sometimes personal calls that require privacy. It's difficult and exhausting toggling back and forth!

Cash flows would come from paid off rental properties: $90k gross annually. And a total stock investment portfolio worth about $450k (inclusive of IRA's and individual brokerage accounts): assuming 7% total return of which 4% would be derived from boring dividend stocks (KO, T, GE etc). Checking maintains a min balance of $75k at all times.

No kids, my annual spend is $50k (gross of taxes) which includes health insurance and expenses to help support my sister.

Based on this and a planned expectancy of 95 years - is retirement today feasible and risk held to a minimum? I would mainly be living off rental proceeds with any monthly excess going into dollar cost averaging stocks or ETFs.
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Old 01-27-2016, 04:03 PM   #7
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Welcome to the forum Caregiver, you have my deep respect on willingness to give up a well paying job in order to help your family. If you are going to stay with your family, you could rent your primary residence or if it is not working out, sell one of your two properties in order to pay off another and have additional cash flow in from the rent.
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Old 01-27-2016, 04:22 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Senator View Post
With only $700K at most in liquid assets, and needing a 40-year retirement, I do not see how it is possible. Especially with 3 dependents.
What he said.

While your intentions are commendable I doubt you could pull this off by yourself.

DW and I found this out with FIL. The last nine months of his life he was in either in a wheelchair or bedridden. We physically could not have taken care of him, it took a staff at the nursing home (which BTW, provided excellent care so they do exist). DW visited almost daily and never saw anything untoward for her father or any of the other patients.

It sounds to me like at least one of the three or quite possibly all of them will need that level of care at some point in the future. I'd think it would be impossible for one person despite the best intentions to provide adequate care based on what we saw with FIL. BTW, the monthly bills were between $9k and $14k per month, usually around $10k and Medicaid rules demand that their assets be exhausted first before they pay.

You are going to need help but I don't see how you could do this even with double the assets.

My advice is make an appointment with an elder law attorney. Tomorrow. Not cheap but well worth it at least for us.
I heard the call to do nothing. So I answered it.
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Old 01-27-2016, 04:40 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Walt34 View Post
What he said.

You are going to need help but I don't see how you could do this even with double the assets.
Have you thought about another job that will provide more time and be less in conflict with your role as a caregiver? You will need help IMO no matter what, I only cared for my mother and I needed lots of assistance. It can be overwhelming but I think your heart is in the right place and you can pull it off, your asking the right questions to start.
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Old 01-27-2016, 04:58 PM   #10
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Sorry about your challenges! Have you had this discussion with your parents? We had this with MIL, and she said did not want to live with us. And she is doing great in assisted living! She has a two bedroom, so even would accommodate your sister.
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Old 01-27-2016, 05:55 PM   #11
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Have a heart to heart with your mom. She can tell you what support she needs now, and what support she'll need in the future.

What was your plan for your sister, when your parents passed. Was the plan to have her come live with you - or for you to move into your parents home?
Retired June 2014. No longer an enginerd - now I'm just a nerd.
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Old 01-27-2016, 06:05 PM   #12
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My advice is to go to your employer and signup for the max allowable time under FMLA...take that time and do the caretaking for your 3 relatives. See how that works out for everybody. You have so many moving parts for the 3 of them that your "no how,no way" comment leaves a lot to be desired in terms of optimum care for everyone. Not every senior caretaker is neglectful or in it just for the money, as a matter of fact I would say the majority want to do right by their patients.

My second thought is how do you come to count the money as "combined" portfolios,you need to fund your retirement on your own numbers. Counting your parents assets seems in poor taste right now as you have no way of knowing how the future will unfold for them. You could get hit by a bus or become disabled yourself. Were you planning on paying yourself to be the caretaker? Eldercare does take a lot of time, but in our family we were involved and used professional trained caretakers, I think you are overestimating what untrained home care can accomplish. Sometimes being the son and the caretaker in not a good mix in family dynamics, it takes away from the son/parent bond.
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Old 01-27-2016, 08:45 PM   #13
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Caregiver - I echo the previous sentiments about you being an awesome daughter/sister to consider stepping in like this.

I see this as a 3-phase situation:

1) Your parents need help now that you can provide and you are willing to quit your job and do it. Yay you!

2) Your parents will need more help than you can provide and this will require more financial resources - within their means for some years but not indefinitely. This may require you to do things like sell their rental properties to access the capital, etc.

3) Your parents have died and you are responsible for your sister. At this point, depending on the financial resources remaining, you may need to go back to work (potentially in a different and less stressful line of work) to provide additional income (which also includes care for her when you are working).

I second the motion to consult an elder law attorney ASAP. Good ones are not just attorneys but also a wealth of information and support.

Blessings on your journey!
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Old 01-27-2016, 10:11 PM   #14
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Short and rough:
Please talk to professional caregiving specialists about your plan.
Your parents may not have done the best four your sister by keeping her under their exclusive care.
You may repeat this now for 3 persons.
Do you have special needs and caregiving knowledge and experience? You seem to overestimate the power of your loving heart and underestimate the task.
A ratio of 1 untrained caregiver for 3 patients would be neglect in a professional unit.

I have helped 2 aunts to find and move to a good facility.
Now mom is in AL and I see her almost every other day.
She wishes she had moved earlier...
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Old 01-27-2016, 10:16 PM   #15
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My aunt was primary caregiver for my grandmother during her final days. Even though she worked from home and had 3-4 hired helpers (so grandma can have round the clock care), it was still a very stressful situation. Seeing how difficult it was for my aunt (with just one patient and only for 3 months), I suggest keeping an open mind about hiring caregivers, else, you'll probably suffer from burnout as only caregiver, too.

As others have mentioned, consult with an elder law attorney. Counting your parents' assets as part of combined assets available for your retirement is problematic particularly if Medicaid needs to step in.
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Old 01-28-2016, 06:10 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Walt34 View Post
While your intentions are commendable I doubt you could pull this off by yourself.

My advice is make an appointment with an elder law attorney. Tomorrow. Not cheap but well worth it at least for us.
What he said.

Caregiver, your sacrifice is admirable but it may not be in the best interest of the family members you care for. Yes, there are shortcomings in healthcare for seniors and people with special needs, but there are also good options. You can probably provide better support for them by supervising care and getting the specialized help they will eventually need, and at the same time accumulating more assets to provide for your own future needs.
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Old 01-28-2016, 06:14 AM   #17
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My hat's off to you on wanting to do what's best for your family. My sister gave 4 years of her life to my parents jointly, and 2 more years to my mother after the passing of my father. But your family situation is compounded greatly with the addition of your special needs sister.

In our case, my sister chose to keep my parents in an exclusive apartment with a full time maid/caregiver--to start. Later, my mother later had to be watched and cared for 24 hours a day and was running through $150K cash per year. Mom was down to her last $5K in cash when she died suddenly. And those 6 years total took a serious toll on my sister's mental state, as it's now like she's had PTSD. The parents should have been in assisted living and later Mom should have been in a nursing home.

My Downs Syndrome first cousin died at age 62 last year. He had been living in a 3 bedroom apartment for 20 years managed by an incredible organization--Volunteers of America. They took him off to a state managed workshop during the day--essentially daycare for the mentally challenged. But the best thing was that Blake had his own life--separate of my aunt who was unable to care for him. And he was very happy. His social security and a VA benefit covered all of his care in this program.

You're in a crossroads of your life, and your situation is probably much more short term than you realize--as elderly parents may not be around very long. But you still have a long life ahead of you and you need to be the best you can be. Don't throw away your career. Find some retirement home professionals that can take care of your parents properly as they have special needs that you simply cannot deliver. I promise you they'll be far happier than they are right now.

And see if there is an organization like Volunteers of America in your area. They are equipped to handle your situation, and your sister deserves to enjoy her life as independent.
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Old 01-28-2016, 10:50 AM   #18
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Caregiver, I admire you commitment to your family.

You have gotten some very good advice here. I also recommend consulting with an elder care attorney. Since Medicaid implementation rules vary by state, I suggest you see an attorney near your parents.

Every state has a Department of Aging, or similarly named organization. There may be additional resources available to you. Again, local is better. You may be able to get a social worker to help you navigate the bureaucracy. A good social worker can be INVALUABLE.

Your situation is very complex. You cannot do it alone. Please try to be flexible about having help at home or your parents in a facility. Think of yourself as a manager. You can hire and supervise others to do some of the physical aspects of their care without putting anyone at risk. A home health aide can come in to bathe and dress your father, cook a meal, and do some light housekeeping. You or your mother can be at home to supervise. This would be a HUGE help to your mother. Not everyone is out to do harm to seniors.

I think you have to be prepared to have your father in a facility at some point. There ARE good ones out there. But you will need to do your homework. It is key to match the facility's capabilities with your parents' needs.

As to your retirement, I would try to sort out your family's situation a bit more and then revisit this issue. As things unfold, it may change your perspective.

Your are taking care of 3 people. This is a very stressful situation. Please, please try to take care of yourself - eat right, get adequate sleep, etc.

Best of luck.
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Old 01-28-2016, 11:28 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by chris2008 View Post
Please talk to professional caregiving specialists about your plan.
Your parents may not have done the best four your sister by keeping her under their exclusive care. ......

OP - I have worked in Group homes and supported community living programs with Mentally handicapped Adults for years.

We often saw this mistake, of families keeping the son/daughter at home with mom & dad. It's a mistake as the son/daughter is not taught life skills, develops bad habits, lacks socialization with peers, and never reaches their potential which is often a lot higher than the parents expected/believed.

Your parents have not done your sister any favors and instead should be looking at finding her a placement in the community, where she can go to work/work shelter every day and learn to cook, laundry, clean, and socialize with others.

Even if you had millions of dollars I would still tell you the above information, as it's not about you, it's about your sister.

Please reach out to the various social agencies to educate yourself to available choices so you can find something suitable.
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Old 01-28-2016, 08:53 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Caregiver View Post
Many thanks Doc and Bigdawg for the reply......

The balancing act is tough and I'm told doesn't get easier. In fact, quite the opposite. I need to maintain my own health in order to provide the needed care of my loved ones......
You have gotten some excellent advice on all fronts in this thread, and I can't add much except to say that IF you attempt to do it all yourself, the first things to go will be your own physical and/or mental health. There is no shame in asking for help. Please take to heart the advice from those who have "been there, done that." If you don't, you won't be in any condition to help any of your family members.

I also admire your devotion to your family members. You just need to also consider your own health and your own needs at the same time.

Best of luck to you.

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