Blended Families Bring Unique Challenges for Caregivers

A recent study about how divorce may affect your health has been making the rounds in the news sources lately. This article discusses how the added stress of divorce, family upheaval, and tighter finances can be so detrimental to your health that the effects can last years into the future. Because our law firm works frequently to help divorced or remarrying couples update their estate plans to protect their new blended families, this article sparked our interest. But what was even more interesting was this recent post by Paula Span about the effects divorce can have 20 or 30 years down the road—not just on the couple but on their grown children now acting as caregivers.

According to Ms. Span, adult children of aging parents often find themselves caring not only for mom and dad but also for step-mom, step-dad and sometimes even another step-parent from yet a third (and current) marriage. Dividing time (and often finances) between so many parents with new and special needs can quickly take its toll, as can the family politics that come with adult siblings, half siblings, and step siblings.  As Ms. Span points out, “It adds another layer of complexity to an already complex and emotional situation.”

With all of this complexity and intermingling family ties, it is more important than ever to have conversations about estate planning and long-term care planning with parents and siblings before mom and dad (and step-mom and step-dad) get to an age where they need in-home or around the clock nursing care. A good estate plan can eliminate much potential fighting and confusion by clearly defining who will be making financial decisions and who should be making health care decisions when mom or dad become incapacitated. And a caregiver agreement can provide financial assistance to the one sibling who inevitably ends up shouldering most of the care giving burden.

If you are a part of a blended family, don’t wait for time to take its toll; talk to your parents and siblings now about any challenges the future may bring—and how to meet those challenges together.