Aging is expensive, and a perfect storm is brewing for the millions of Americans whose elderly parents need care and perhaps, financial assistance. Fidelity’s Retirement Health Care Cost Estimate states that a couple, both aged 65 and retiring, can expect to spend more than $245,000 on health care while enrolled in Medicare during their retirement, and this does not count nursing home or long-term care expenses. Unfortunately there is no sign that healthcare or prescription drug expenses will slow anytime soon.

For many adult children who become caregivers, there is a double whammy. An alarming percentage of Baby Boomers have little money saved for their own retirements and many lack pensions from their employers. Facing an uncertain financial future themselves, adult children may find themselves in a very tough spot when their parents need help. A 2016 GoBankingRate survey found that 28% of Baby Boomers and seniors age 55 and over have zero retirement savings. Twenty-six percent had less than $100,000 saved, 16.5 percent had up to $299,900 saved, and only 22.4 percent had more than $300,000 in their nest egg. Other surveys show similar findings.

Women, who are more likely to be caregivers, are at higher risk of economic instability. Lower wages, gaps in employment due to child-rearing or other caregiving responsibilities, and the financial impact of divorce can affect many women’s ability to save. In addition they may contribute less to Social Security, resulting in lower benefits when they finally collect. The poverty rate for older women is nearly double that of men.

There is no easy answer. However, education for the entire family on the true costs of aging and advance planning can prevent a financial crisis. People often underestimate the costs of home care and of nursing home care, and don’t understand the federal rules regarding the services covered by Medicare and Medicaid. Family conversations on wills, estates, long-term care insurance, and advance planning may be touchy or difficult, but are also critical to have while options still exist. Care managers, elder law attorneys, and other knowledgeable professionals can provide consultations and guidance, and facilitate these difficult family discussions.

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