Elder Caregiving Issues in Blended Families


by Peter Mangiola, RN~Starting in the 1960s, divorce became far more common in the United States, and although the divorce rate hit a 40 year low in 2009, it has been going back up since then as the economy has improved. The large number of divorces in America has given rise to a phenomenon called the blended family. And as parents within blended families reach their retirement years, additional caregiving issues can arise.

Second marriages, particularly those later in life, often have the most conflict when it comes to elder caregiving. Typically, the step children in later marriages have never lived under the same roof with their step parent. For this reason, the relationship is often strained because they’ve never bonded with each other or even gotten to know each other.

What does a Caregiving Situation in a Blended Family Look Like?

Here is a real life example of how a senior caregiving situation can play out in a blended family; Rebecca’s father passes away and a few years later, her 65 year old mother remarries. Her new stepfather, who is 73 at the time of the marriage, develops Alzheimer’s disease. They find out quickly that Medicare is not going to cover all of the needed care, and the financial burden will fall largely on the family.

Rebecca’s stepfather has two children of his own, but they live 2000 miles away and have no interest in dealing with the situation. Her mother has some savings put away for her own care, but only around $50,000. Her stepfather, on the other hand, is living mainly off of Social Security and a small pension with very little savings set aside.

Rebecca wants to do the right thing. She knows that her mother is not capable of being her stepfather’s caregiver as the disease worsens. So in order for her stepfather to receive the care he needs, they are going to need to bring in some outside help.

Rebecca quickly realizes that unless his children step in (which is highly unlikely), her mother’s savings are going to be used to provide care for her stepfather. After surveying her options, she concludes that in home senior care will be more affordable than a nursing home or assisted living facility.

But even if they choose in home elder care, how long before her mom’s savings run out? And once her savings are depleted, how will they pay for her stepfather’s care? What about her mom’s senior care needs?

Rebecca’s mom is in good health now, but you never know what will happen as she ages. It’s too late now to purchase affordable long-term care insurance, so Rebecca will likely be the one to care for her mom if the need arises.

Planning Ahead to Avoid Conflicts down the Road

As is the case with Rebecca and millions of others in her situation, the blended family dynamics with senior caregiving can get pretty messy. For this reason, it is critical that a caregiving plan be put in place ahead of time so as to avoid these issues later on.

Here are 4 tips to help blended families plan for impending senior care issues:

1.  Consider Long-Term Care Insurance

For blended families where the parents are still under age 65, it is a good idea to look into long-term care insurance to relieve the financial burden of the senior care. The younger and healthier you are when you purchase a long-term care policy, the cheaper your premiums will be.

2.  Decide Ahead of Time Who is Responsible for Your Care

It is important for the parents to choose the person they trust the most to make decisions on their behalf. This should be done long before any health issues arise. And in the case of a remarriage later in life, elder care decisions for both parents should be made before the wedding.

3.  Seek Professional Guidance

Often times, the help of an objective third party professional can go a long way toward finding the right caregiving option for your particular circumstance. Senior groups such as AARP often have counselors available in your area to offer guidance for family members.

4.  Be Respectful

It is often easier said than done, but the importance of being respectful of the perspectives of each party involved cannot be understated. Regardless of past conflicts and personal issues you may have with a step parent, you need to put aside these feelings and focus on making sure your aging family members are well cared for. If everyone stays respectful, you should be able to find a senior care option that fits your needs and everyone can agree on.


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About Peter Mangiola

Peter Mangiola is a senior care advocate with several decades of experience in the industry. Peter helps senior citizens by leveraging his vast knowledge of the healthcare industry and his expertise in identifying effective, affordable healthcare solutions. Peter has been a consultant, educator and regular speaker for many groups and organizations over the years covering a wide variety of topics; including Geriatric Care Management, Dementia, Alzheimer’s and Senior Care Health Service & Advocacy

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