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Tips For Adult Children Caring For Financially Irresponsible Elderly Parents

Tips for Adult Children Caring for Financially Irresponsible Elderly Parents

Although the roles are usually reversed, some parents are so financially irresponsible they become a burden to their adult children. And this can create nightmare financial situations and greatly strain the relationship between parent and child.

If you’re an adult child with financially irresponsible elderly parents, you may be feeling overwhelmed with these challenges. And you may be wondering whether or not you should feel responsible for them, how to talk with them, and if and how to help.

These are complex and difficult conversations to have, but they are necessary. Read on for some helpful tips about caring for financially irresponsible parents.

Determine What You Can Do

First, you must determine if and what you are capable of providing to your parents. This includes looking at all the factors, such as your immediate economic realities.

If you are in a relationship or are married, this conversation will likely involve both of you. Keep the communication open so that both of you can freely address your concerns and thoughts.

If you know your parent will need financial help in the future, the best thing to do is be proactive. Take the time to budget how much you can put away so when the time arises, you will be ready.

If you have kids of your own and must prioritize your retirement, you may not be able to help. No one can predict the future, but it’s important to prepare for these situations and realistically think of both of your futures.

Plan with the Rest of the Family

Establish a team dynamic by talking to anyone in your family who may be asked for assistance. If you’re an only child, try talking to a friend if you need moral support.

It’s important to have these conversations without the parents present to establish the most objective discussion possible. Plus, if they are there, it may create some hurt feelings unnecessarily – if that must happen, let it happen later.

By talking to your family, you can address your mutual problem and establish the best course of action for everyone. Then everyone can share the load: divide the bills, carpool, or find out if someone has a spare room.

Cover all the bases before bringing the financial assistance strategy to your parents. This way you’ll set yourself up for a better conversation and, in turn, a better future.

Have “the Talk” With Your Parents

The talk may not be ideal but it can and must be done – so be calm, firm, and direct. If you’re financially secure, acknowledge that without being condescending, and let them know they can come to you for help.

If you help, establish some conditions, such as financial transparency, to ensure you aren’t enabling their bad decisions. It’s okay to respectfully communicate to them that their lack of planning will inevitably affect you and your future.

Ultimately, your parents aren’t your responsibility, and your purposes aren’t to control them. You’re just trying to help, and you have every right to not help, as well.

So, don’t help if they aren’t taking you seriously or if you cannot help without suffering. Anything you give should come in gift-form – owing someone usually breeds resentment and you don’t want to strain your relationship.

Prioritize Your Future

You must prioritize your future and ensure you don’t become that parent relying on their child in retirement. You shouldn’t use a kid’s college fund to support a parent or sacrifice your retirement to support a parent.

This is why any plans of offering assistance should not come at the detriment of your livelihood. Working towards a better financial future for yourself is more important.

If the plan to help involves a decision from you and your spouse, let them be equally involved. Don’t let this strain your relationship with your partner – it simply doesn’t help anything and isn’t worth it.

And make a point to see their bank and credit card statements for a better idea of their finances. If this makes them uncomfortable, remind them the point isn’t to control them but to help them – requiring complete transparency.

Caring for Financially Irresponsible Parents

Navigating family and money problems can be incredibly difficult – the two can be like oil and water. At the end of the day, don’t lose your relationship with your parents and don’t forget about your future.

Note paying more than 50% of your parents’ expenses could legally make them your dependent. And more than 50% of American states have “filial responsibility laws,” legally requiring adult children to help financially insecure parents. The key to all of this is to have direct conversations establishing boundaries before prematurely rendering aid. By being firm, you aren’t being mean – you’re setting the both of you up for the best future possible.


If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation.  Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.

Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia CareBed & Wheelchair Transfer AssistanceCompanionshipHousekeeping & Meal PreparationPersonal CareRecovery Care, and Transportation.

Serving the San Francisco Bay Area, Greater San Diego, and now Oregon, Family Matter In-Home Care has offices in Campbell, CARoseville, CASan Marcos, CASan Mateo, CA, and Portland, OR.

Carol Pardue-Spears

Carol has worked in the healthcare field for more than forty years. As a Certified Nursing Assistant, she worked for El Camino Hospital in the cardiac unit, Los Gatos Community Hospital, The Women’s Cancer Center in Los Gatos and several home health and hospice agencies. Carol founded Family Matters in 2002 to fill a deficit she witnessed in high-quality, in-home services and care.