How much does it really cost to help your aging parents?


In my last post I wrote about the maintenance issues we’re facing with my parent’s house . . . and mentioned how I decided which jobs to hire and which to do myself. For me it really came down to economics and my quality of life. Yes, you do get to make that choice once in awhile!

Over the last 15 years, I’ve worn a groove in the highway making the trek back “home.” This is usually a day trip and almost always involves something work-related for my parent’s home or personal needs. Of course, we do occasionally go over just to visit . . . but when you live this far away it really seems like we should try to do a little bit whenever we’re there. I’m sure you can relate!

Is taking a vacation day to help really the best choice?

Now, sometimes it takes me awhile to get smart! So after about 200+ trips, I started to think that maybe I could hire out some of these chores – and save some time and money, all while reducing my own stress level. So, with a little “cost analysis” (okay, some would call this creative accounting but it works for me!), I tallied up the real costs of taking a day to help my parents:

1. Driving: 200 miles round trip = about $30 (for gas plus wear and tear on my car).
2. Time: 4 hours in the car (made even more fun if my kids are along!) plus taking a day off work.
3. Stress level: High, because I practically have to duct tape my Mom to her chair to keep her from helping me! And the whole time I’m working at their house, I know the work is piling up at my own house.

You can actually save money by paying someone else to do the work.

After seeing this true cost on paper, I realized that I’ve really been spending more than $100 to drive to my folks to do a job I could hire out for under $50! In fact, I ended up hiring a weekly cleaning person ($50 per visit) and a lawn guy ($20 per mowing or shoveling) – and I still come out ahead by thirty dollars. Which, incidentally, is just enough to pay for the drive over there so I can still go visit.

Less work means more time with your parents.

And now I mean truly “visit”! Instead of the mad-dash to get the work done in a day, I can sit down and have a cup of coffee while we sort through old pictures and record a few memories. Or we can enjoy a leisurely dinner and maybe even go to a movie together.

And time with Mom and Dad really is the best investment you could ever make. Remember how fast those years went by when our kids were little – and how we wish we’d slowed down a bit and treasured them a little more? It’s kind of the same thing with our aging parents.

This is really a unique stage of life for all of us – as adults we can relate a little better with our parents because we’re going through the same things they went through when they were raising a family. And they’re ready to slow down and spend quality time with us (as long as we’re willing to offer it!). Besides, I’d much rather talk with my Mom about her teenage years than spend my time washing windows or mowing lawn!


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