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An Unseen Event Caused Mom and Dad to Decline at the Same Time!

The Unthinkable!

The Unthinkable happens when it’s Mom AND Dad declining at the same time. Helping tend to the needs of one declining parent can be more than a handful – but what happens when both parents suddenly need care? The short answer is careful, quick and considered planning combined with a lot of assistance from various sources.

The Unthinkable Scenario!

You may only imagine the sequence of events that would have happened to arrive at this unthinkable, nightmare of a scenario. We have seen it play out in various ways over the years. Sometimes it’s that both parents just naturally decline physically or cognitively at the same rate and (seemingly suddenly) both now need assistance.

Or the unthinkable could have happened as a result of an accident. Such as the case where Mom (who weighed approximately 100 lbs.) was helping Dad, who had significant mobility issues and weighed approximately 200 pounds. Dad lost balance going down the concrete steps to the car, Mom tried to stabilize him, both lost balance and Dad fell on top of Mom. Speaking of a nightmare scenario – both parents are in the hospital the same day!

Different Types of Care Needed

It’s usually nothing as dramatic as the unthinkable scenario mentioned above, but both needed care at once is definitely not unheard of. One issue with this seemingly odd set of circumstances is what type of care is now needed by Mom and Dad. Even though they have both declined and both need care, they may now need different types of care. For example, Dad may have declined cognitively and need a nursing home level of care – while Mom may now need care at home. Two different needs requiring two different care advocacy efforts from the family.

Mom’s Unthinkable Scenario

Mom’s care at home may require sustained daily effort on behalf of the family and outside caregivers for a prolonged period of time. Depending on the level of care needed, the family may be able to provide the care themselves. If there are several family members who can juggle and coordinate their schedules with each other, they may be able to provide all or at least a substantial portion of the care required by their declining parent. At some point in time when Mom’s care needs increase, they will likely have to bring in non-medical caregivers to assist.

Dad’s Unthinkable Scenario

Maybe the reason that Dad is now in a nursing home is that his Alzheimer’s or dementia has progressed to the level that care at home is no longer possible. Maybe the family did everything possible to provide for Dad’s care at home as long as possible. But when the progression of his disease demanded even more care, they were stretched thin.

To greatly complicate the situation, when Mom (who had been Dad’s primary caregiver for the last few years) suddenly needed care of her own at home, this was “the straw that broke the camel’s back”. The family could no longer afford the time, money or emotional effort required to provide full time care for both parents at home.

How to Pay for the Unthinkable

You would think that care at home is a lot cheaper than care in a skilled care facility – but that’s not always the case. Recently we had a client couple who both needed care. The husband required care in a skilled care facility with a monthly cost of around $6,000 per month. The wife received care at home with a monthly cost of around $8,000 per month. With outside caregivers required to the tune of $20 per hour, you can estimate how many hours of care your parent(s) need per day and do the math yourself. It can be a substantial amount.
By the way, if you haven’t checked, just know that the rates quoted above are from our area of the country (Arkansas) and are substantially higher in other areas of the country.

If you are thinking that $14K per month may stretch your budget just a bit, you are right. Combo care for both parents can wipe out a lifetime of savings in short order. The families then look at options. Here are a few.

Parent’s liquid savings

This is the easiest money to go through, but efforts should be made to protect as much of this as possible – especially for the benefit of the spouse at home.

Sell parents land, home, farm or other non-liquid assets

These are normally the assets that the family wants to protect and pass on as a legacy. With proper planning, this can sometimes be protected.

Family assistance of time and/or money

The family can do a lot to help stretch their parent’s assets and to honor their wish to stay at home as long as possible. However as care needs increase, the family may not be able to provide all the care needed.

VA Assistance

If either spouse served in the military on active duty they may qualify for VA Aid & Attendance or other VA benefits. Contact your local VSO or Elder Law Attorney for assistance.

Long Term Care Insurance

If your parents are fortunate enough to have some type of Long Term Care Insurance, this can help pay for care at home, in an Assisted Living or Skilled Care Facility. Reference your policy for details.


Your doctor may prescribe medical caregiver assistance for a short period of time. This is in the form of medical caregivers such as physical therapists or home health aides who may be there for less than an hour at a time. This helps but doesn’t substitute for non medical home care.


This is the program that, once you qualify, pays for care in a long term care facility. See your Elder Law Attorney for assistance.

These are a few of the more common payment options. There are others that may apply in your situation.

It is tough when one parent declines in health. When it happens to both at once, this is an unthinkable family crisis that requires that the family pull together and do some careful, quick and considered planning combined with a lot of assistance from various sources.

Best wishes as you work to provide assistance for the declining parent(s) in your life.

At ELP, we work to protect you!

We work with people to do various types of estate planning. There is no one size fits all plan and no plan is categorically better than others. The key is to meet with your attorney (hopefully us!) to discuss your unique situation and have a plan crafted that is best for you. If you or your declining parent is not 100% sure of their beneficiary designations, please be proactive and give us a call before you (or they) lose capacity.

Without a properly flexible plan, how will you care for your declining Loved One, be there for your family, get work done, and pivot in the event of a crisis? What about cost? How will you pay for it all? If you make the Assisted Living Facility choice, how long will the money last? Together, we can craft a proactive plan! Lets get started protecting your assets!

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We have covered some legal topics in this edition and as always, I want to emphasize that (1) the law is different in every state, so if you live in a state other than Arkansas, just know that the law may be totally different in your state; (2) your situation is unique, so one size doesn’t fit all – meaning what we discuss herein may not be right for you; (3) we have purposely over-simplified many of the topics above (otherwise this would be many pages long and unreadable because of all of the legalize). It is imperative that you meet with your attorney (hopefully us!) and get a plan that will work for you. Don’t try to plan based on what you read in this (or any) article AND don’t try to go it alone. Please consider this, get your questions answered and take action.