If you expect to provide care …
Talk to a financial advisor. In the TD Ameritrade survey, only 21 percent of financial supporters said they had discussed their role with a financial professional, and 55 percent had talked to the support recipient. Working with a financial planner can help you find places to cut expenses, said certified financial planner Eleanor Blayney, consumer advocate for the CFP Board of Standards. It also sets a firm line on how much financial support you can provide without jeopardizing aims that are important to you, such as your own retirement or your kids' college fund.
Assess the diagnosis. Get a realistic assessment of how the care recipient's condition might progress or change, said Andy Cohen, chief executive and co-founder of Caring.com. That can help you plan and determine when particular services—like hospice—are warranted.
Marshal your resources. Caregivers can face an ongoing battle to find and arrange care options. Talk to other caregivers and explore the bevy of resources that provide support, services or information—like a local department of aging, AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving.
Look for programs through your local and state governments, utility payment assistance programs and tax breaks targeted to seniors, which can help both the caregiver's and care recipient's bottom line. Talk to your boss, too, said Blayney—companies may have support groups, flexible work policies or other aid. "If you are eligible for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, use that time to do your homework and figure out how you might get assistance," she said.
See if you can collect pay. AARP notes that under some state programs, long-term care policies and veterans' benefits, a family member providing in-home care may qualify for a stipend. Check policy details and reach out to your local department of aging services to see what's available.
Create a caregiving contract. Set out who is going to do what, like manage finances, send money or provide on-hand care, said Blayney. Then keep track. That can help ensure family members aren't overburdened, and set good records for tax deductions or reimbursement from a parent's estate.