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How Long Will Dad's Money Last?



"My father-in-law is a widower and living alone. He’s in his late 80s and falling frequently. He’s not interested in leaving his home, and due to his need for in-home care over the last two years, his money is dwindling. I believe that he may only have about $150,000 left, plus his home. As you know, that money will not last long if he needs round-the-clock supervision.

Father-in-law seems to be prepared to spend every penny of his money on in-home care, or he expects the family to take care of him. He refuses to look at moving, or an assisted living situation.  

Frankly, I don’t know how much longer we can manage him at home. How do families deal with this situation?"



Every family goes through this, and they all struggle to find the perfect answer. Most people age slowly, and require assistance for a time before they pass.  

Elderly parents and their children must make uncomfortable choices. No one wants to spend money on health care. One-on-one care is the most expensive, for obvious reasons. It is the most desired type of care--a bit like flying first class--so it’s understandable that your father-in-law likes caregivers coming to his home. He stays put, and he’s attended to without a wait. What’s not to like?  

Dad-in-law may feel that there is no risk of him outliving his money, and if his health is poor, this may be true. With a very short-term prognosis, it wouldn’t be difficult to run the numbers and determine if he’s right. If he isn’t terminally ill but could actually live many more years, dollars and reality are going to need to be matched.  

My recommendation is that his children sit down with him and do a realistic projection of how long his money will last with his current spend. Assess his current health status and attempt to project how long he might live. This is a tough task and you will likely need to consult with his physician to get a rough estimate on his life span. Do realize if your father-in-law doesn’t have a life limiting disease at the moment, it will be more difficult for his doctor to project accurately. Projecting the month of death becomes easier as a person nears the end, not years out.

If his projected home care cost exceeds his liquid assets, it may be time for a heart-to-heart. When his money reaches a certain level, less expensive care needs to be planned for. If dad-in-law is of sound mind, the children should help him. It’s okay for him to have a Plan A and a Plan B, or maybe even a Plan C. Do realize that decisions now will impact his choices later. I think presenting him with all of the options and the consequences of his decisions is the best his children can do. They then must let the “chips fall where they may.”At some point it will resolve.

I wish you and your husband’s family success on this shared journey. It is not an easy one.


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