Jaclyn Strauss has four words of advice for siblings who want to share the costs of parental caregiving: play to your strengths.
That’s precisely what she and her brother have done in preparation for what they both know will be substantial caregiving costs for their 78-year-old father living in Tampa, Florida. Even though his caregiving needs have started out relatively small — with a paid aide just a couple of hours a day for home care — the siblings have been preparing for this moment for several years, with regular communication and digital transparency of all their parents’ important documents and paperwork. Their mom, a 72-year-old retired schoolteacher, has not needed long-term care, but is too physically and financially stretched to care for her husband.
Never mind that Strauss, who is a 43-year-old CPA in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and her 40-year-old brother, who is a physician in Tampa, fought like cats and dogs during their youth. They are now very close, she says. And each has embraced their chief asset in the new caregiving duties that now require financially assisting their folks.
“In my profession, I hear about all the infighting and resentment that siblings can have towards each other in this process — and that is exactly what my brother and I don’t have,” says Strauss, a founder of 2ndVault, a digital company that organizes and stores important documents and information. “We approached this by first asking ourselves: ‘What are the strengths that each of us brings to the table?’ ”
As the baby boom generation continues to age, this issue — how to both fairly and amicably split caregiving costs among siblings — will only grow. Roughly 70 percent of people over age 65 will need some form of long-term care before they die, according to an analysis by the Urban Institute. And many have not saved enough for that care. A 2021 AARP report found three-quarters of the family caregivers surveyed spent an average of $7,200 annually on out-of-pocket costs toward a loved one’s expenses on everything from housing and medication to adult day care.
Here is how financial planners and a caregiving specialist advise siblings on how to best walk this often prickly financial walk.
1. Acknowledge the challenge
A critical first step is to simply acknowledge and validate how difficult long-term care is for all involved, says Marguerita Cheng, a certified financial adviser in Potomac, Maryland. Not only is it difficult for the parent, but it’s also difficult for siblings who are trying to support long-term care emotionally and financially.