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Education Center » Health and aging: Is your family ready to cover the costs?

Health and aging: Is your family ready to cover the costs?


Use these four questions as a guide to help you plan ahead for future medical and caregiving needs.

Most people don’t want to think about the health-related what-ifs that come with aging, let alone talk about them—especially with family. Nonetheless, that conversation is critical to have. Having a plan in place that you’ve put together as a family can free everyone up to focus on each other, instead of worrying about where the money will come from should you, or an aging parent or spouse, fall ill. “The best time to talk about these matters is before you need to,” notes Cynthia Hutchins, director of financial gerontology at Bank of America.

Below are four questions to help you start having these important family talks with your spouse, children, parents and siblings. Use them to share your expectations with your family. Consult your financial professional about ways to prepare financially for the health-care costs that may occur. And keep talking as years go by and circumstances change. While no one can know the future, being prepared for what might come next can make the road ahead easier.


Where will the money come from?

Talk about potential expenses associated with a long-term illness, such as home health care or modifications to the family home to accommodate a future disability. Should you or your parents purchase disability or long-term care insurance, consider other options such as hybrid forms of life insurance and health savings accounts, or simply save and invest more?

Review your choices with a financial professional who can help ensure that your retirement and any other goals aren’t put in jeopardy.


Will our parents have the care they need as they grow older?

Many people struggle with aging parents’ unwillingness to face their limitations. That’s why it can be wise to bring these issues up early. Ask specific questions like: At what point would it makes sense for you to stop driving, or to have someone come in to help with meals? These conversations can be difficult, so don't be discouraged if your initial efforts are dismissed. It likely will take more than one conversation to get the answers that you need.


Who will provide the caregiving if it’s needed?

Hutchins recommends that siblings talk first among themselves about how they’ll share the caregiving role. “You want to be sure that both your parents’ and your own needs are considered. Sometimes it makes sense to cobble together a combination of in-home and outside care,” she says, where siblings can at least share the costs, if not the hands-on responsibilities.


What about end-of-life issues?

Among the things to consider: Which medical treatments do you and your parents want to be used or avoided at the end of your lives? Who do you want to be your healthcare proxy if you are unable to communicate your wishes? You can use a health care power of attorney and a living will to document your choices. And begin thinking about how you want to pass on your legacy — financial and otherwise.

Learn more and take action

  • Check out this on-demand video to learn about how to manage medical costs in your golden years.
  • Documenting and organizing your financial information can help you and your family navigate through life events. Use this resource to take the first step.


Long-term care insurance coverage contains benefits, exclusions, limitations, eligibility requirements and specific terms and conditions under which the insurance coverage may be continued in force or discontinued. Not all insurance policies and types of coverage may be available in your state.

Merrill, its affiliates, and financial advisors do not provide legal, tax or accounting advice. You should consult your legal and/or tax advisors before making any financial decisions. You should consult your legal and/or tax advisors before making any financial decisions.

This material should be regarded as general information on health-care considerations and is not intended to provide specific health-care advice. If you have questions regarding your particular situation, please contact your legal or tax advisor.