How do I care for a disabled family member?

Mar 26 / Jay Zigmont, PhD, MBA, CFP®
It's a sad fact of life that you may find yourself stepping into the role of caregiver for a disabled family member. There's a lot of plates to keep spinning if you're in this situation, so here's a few ideas to help you manage your responsibilities.

Set Boundaries

Unfortunately, sometimes your status as a Childfree or permanently childless person will result in family members assuming you are the natural choice to be in charge of aging parents or caring for a disabled sibling after your parents have passed on. This is absolutely not fair to you, and it's important to set your own boundaries and not fall prey to assuming responsibility due to feeling guilty. So decide whether you're willing to help, and to what extent. 

For example, you might be able to provide financial support to cover some costs of care, but not be willing to house a disabled family member, and this is absolutely your right. Don't let anyone guilt you into doing more than you can handle. And if someone puts you in their will as a caregiver for someone else without your consent, you can disclaim the will.

Find a Geriatric Care Manager or Social Worker

We have another article about geriatric care managers and how they can be your biggest help if you're in the position of caring for a disabled family member. A social worker is another key person for your team. Often, the town/city or county you're in will have a social worker who can tell you what programs your family member will qualify for, and advise you on how to apply for them.

Figure Out Finances and the Future

If you decide to take on caring for a loved one, you have to plan for the future, not just the present. If you're dealing with a terminal illness, there is an endpoint to your care, but if you're caring for a disabled sibling who will need care for their entire life, you'll need to make arrangements for what happens after you pass on, if they outlive you. You should also plan to revisit programs and disability payments every year, as requirements change and you can take advantage of new programs. You may need the help of a lawyer to get Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments.

These considerations will change your financial plan. Some of the money and time you spend can be a tax write-off, for example. You also need to get your own paperwork in order, such as your will, living will, and power of attorney – and this paperwork for the person you're caring for, too. You'll need to be made their guardian as well, so gear up for more legal action – and it's worth consulting with a lawyer, as well as a Childfree Wealth Specialist® for the money side of things. 

You can't do all this on your own without help – it's too much for one person. So lean on the people around you (and ensure that you're not burned out), and speak to professionals, including social workers, geriatric care managers, lawyers, and your favorite CFP® professional.

Jay Zigmont, PhD, MBA, CFP® is the Founder of Childfree Wealth®, a life and financial planning firm dedicated to helping Childfree and Permanently Childless people. Dr. Jay is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, Childfree Wealth Specialist, and author of the book “Portraits of Childfree Wealth.” Dr. Jay is the co-host of Childfree Wealth Podcast. His Ph.D. is in Adult Learning from the University of Connecticut.

He has been featured in Fortune, Forbes, MarketWatch, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Business Insider, CNBC, and many other publications.