Understanding Legal Responsibility for Elderly Parents

Throughout our lives, our parents have provided security, support and guidance, helping us find our path at the complicated crossroads in life and giving us a shoulder to cry on when things do not go our way. As our parents age, it can be difficult to watch their abilities and needs change. In a large family, there may be relatives close by to help with daily tasks. For only children, the responsibility of providing care to aging parents often rests on them alone. No matter what the circumstances, the shifting relationship dynamics that come with parents who need help and the complicated emotional and physical demands of becoming a caregiver can be a stressful and challenging time.

As you begin exploring the best options to support your family as your parents age, you may have questions. Is it my responsibility to take care of my parents? What options do I have for housing or for in-home help? Understanding the answers to these questions can help get you started on the right foot.

When do You Know it’s Time for Assisted Living?

According to the National Center for Assisted Living, in the US today, there are nearly 29,000 assisted living facilities that serve more than a million senior residents. When looking at options to provide support and security for aging parents, considering assisted living is often high on the list. But, how do you know when it is time for assisted living? Aging.com has a few tips on what questions to ask when you begin considering assisted living for an elderly parent. Those include:

  • Can your parent manage cooking and mealtime in a safe, healthy way?
  • Is your parent safe at home or is he or she a fall risk?
  • Is the house clean and the laundry done?
  • Is hygiene an issue?
  • Has the overall appearance of the home or the person changed as far as upkeep?
  • Are medications managed accurately and safely?
  • Can your parent keep track of and attend medical appointments?

Depending on the answers to these questions, it may be time to discuss the option of senior living or in-home assistance with your parent.

Legal Responsibility for Elderly Parents

In addition to the emotional challenges of caring for an aging parent, family dynamics are complicated. What is the responsibility of siblings? How do you share the duties? What if your elderly parents do not want help? And there are legal concerns. Here are some common questions for first-time caregivers to consider:

Are you legally responsible for your elderly parents?
The legal requirement for children to take care of our parents is different from state to state. While some states mandate that children, who are financially able, must support parents who are impoverished, other states do not put any requirement or obligation on children to care for older parents. Currently, 27 states have what are called filial responsibility laws. Here are a few things to note about filial laws:

  • Most filial laws take into account an adult child’s ability to pay to help the parent.
  • Filial laws are designed to minimize the burden placed on a state’s welfare system.
  • Some filial laws allow care providers to sue family members for payment.
  • In some states, filial laws make failing to care for an aging parent a criminal offense.

Should we take care of our elderly parents?
It is not always possible to care for an elderly parent yourself. No matter if the issue is time, distance or complex relationships, there are many options to provide care services without giving care yourself. So, the answer to this question is largely personal and dependent on circumstances.

What are the options to help take care of our elderly parents?
Deciding what the future should look like for your family and your elderly loved ones is a large, complicated question. When you begin to see signs that your parents need help, many adult children decide it is time to be responsible for our parents and become caregivers. As you approach this first step, here are some questions to consider:

  • Conduct an assessment of your parent and their living situation. Is a change needed for health or safety reasons?
  • How is medical care currently handled and how long can the current model continue?
  • What does your life allow, as far as time and financial resources, to support your parent?
  • What are the options in your community that can provide support for your family?

Looking Ahead

Senior care communities, such as Lamar Court in Overland Park, Kansas, are an excellent example of how we can take care of our elderly parents in a clean, comfortable, active setting. Lamar Court offers convenient services and a dedicated staff who provides care around the clock. Contact us today to schedule a tour.