There will come a day when your aging parent may need someone to handle his or her care, and that someone will very likely be you. In fact, many adult children expect that such a day will come when they must assume responsibility for their parents’ well being. After all, that’s the circle of life, and morally the right thing to do. Of course, what happens when you’re not on speaking terms with a parent? Or when you’re already maxed out financially and physically caring for your own family? What if someone was to tell you that it’s too bad — you’re legally responsible to deal with your parents, no matter what?
That could very well happen, believe it or not, as 30 states currently have laws making adult children responsible for their parents’ care if their parents can’t afford to take care of themselves. Though these “filial responsibility” laws are not often enforced, there is some speculation that they will be in order to save Medicaid money. According to the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), those states with filial responsibility laws:
Twenty-one allow some sort of civil court action to obtain financial support (or cost recovery) and 12 specify a criminal penalty for filial nonsupport; three states allow both civil and criminal actions. Of course, in many cases state filial responsibility laws limit children’s liability under a variety of conditions, such as whether the adult child has enough income to actually contribute, or if the adult child’s financial circumstances change, or if they were abandoned or deserted by the parent.
If filial responsibility laws are enforced, it will affect the common practice of exhausting or transferring a senior’s assets so that a senior may qualify for Medicaid, often prior to entering long term care. Currently, Medicaid only looks at the assets of the individual, but since Medicaid is in financial trouble, the government is looking at the filial responsibility laws to help deal with the crisis.
The New Old Age Blog looks at the filial responsibility topic as well, and there is some interesting discussion in the comments. It’s a tough topic to legislate because so many people are taking care of their own families, but then again, many adult children are able to contribute toward their parents care and they don’t, even when their parents’ situation is less than desirable. I also know that government resources aren’t unlimited, either, it’s a complicated topic.
Someday, I will be responsible for my dad. I will do everything that I can, but I also have my own family to consider. I’m fortunate that he has planned very well, but I can’t help but feel for others who might not have that luxury. Especially now that the government may be putting all of the burden on them.
What do you think — should your aging parents be your responsibility no matter what?