Are you part of the thousands of Kenyans who are providing financial support to your parents?
Regardless of culture, nation, or background, most adults are expected to have some role in taking care of their parents when they can no longer do that themselves. It may sound simple and great but oftentimes, it can have a toll on them financially and emotionally depending on the family’s ability to do so.
Being there financially for your parents doesn’t have to strain your finances or relationships. If you find yourself in such a situation now or even in the future, here's how you can do it without wrecking your savings - or your financial future.
When you want to offer financial help to your parents, the first step is deciding how you will make that possible. Have a conversation with your spouse and siblings before committing to anything.
Financially supporting your parents can be strenuous if not well planned especially if you also have a family of your own and your income isn’t able to sustain you. So talk to your spouse about what you would like to do for your parents, then come to an agreement on how that will be achieved.
This doesn’t just have to be financial, it can be applied even practically and emotionally when supporting them. As a couple, the amount you set aside to help your parents should be agreed on between the two of you.
If you have siblings you also want to bring them in the picture. How much are they willing to and able to contribute to your parents’ care?
Having this conversation with them before committing to help your parents can help you and everyone else to stay on track and be on the same page.
You can also have very honest conversations with your parents on what they need or may want to have. This approach will enable you to know where your parents are financially and where they would like to be and how you can fill that gap.
In your conversation, you can also bring up some of the options that you have for them. If it’s hiring someone to help them with tasks around the house, paying for their monthly food supply, or even medical expenses that are needed if they have any.
If you’re currently supporting your parents financially, or if you are concerned that you might have to in the future, it’s important to start with clear communication. The conversation can be awkward, but it can save you, your siblings, and your family money, time, and the health of your relationships.
While evaluating the help that your parents need, you might also consider government options like, “The Older Persons Cash Transfer Programme,” under Inua Jamii. This is most commonly known as, pesa ya wazee - money for the elderly.
If your parents were not formally employed or if they don’t earn a pension, you can enlist them in the government’s Inua Jamii program which provides monthly welfare support of Ksh2000/= to each elderly person. To qualify, your parents should be aged seventy years and above. Although the amounts are quite low, it is a good addition.
Once you understand your parents’ needs and have considered other options you can get for them, you can start making plans for what you can do to help them.
As your parents grow older, they are likely to develop health conditions because of their weakening immune system as they advance in age.
Some of these conditions can be long-term and costly to treat or manage with money directly from your pocket. To avoid financial strain, you should consider looking out for policy covers that are tailored for elderly people. The majority of these covers cater for hospitalization, surgery, physiotherapy, drugs, and even dressings with some covering extra expenses such as treatment and surgery in foreign countries.
According to Nancy Aketch, the managing director of Taraji Insurance Agency, “Minimum and maximum age allowed, medical history, underlying health conditions, budget and the minimum limits required are the primary factors you should look out for when taking a health cover for an elderly person aged 60 and above,”
Peter Nduati, the CEO of Resolution Insurance had this to say in a past interview, “Many Kenyans with aging parents are slowly waking up to the reality that medical expenses are slowly eroding their lifetime savings. They are therefore opting to mitigate the risks by taking out insurance covers for those over 60 years.”
In support, James Ngomeli, the chairperson of the Chartered Institute of Marketing Kenya branch added, “Taking insurance for my parents was the best decision I have taken because as they age, their medical needs increase and this can be a big drain on the pockets if one is not prepared.”
You could consider taking the NHIF Medical Cover which covers the contributor, spouse, and declared dependents - which is the nuclear family but you can also pay separately for your parents under the SupaCover option among many others.
Just as you need to know your parents’ needs to understand how you can chip in financially, you need to also understand your financial status. This will help know how far you can go while helping them.
You should be on track with your expenses as well so that you don’t run broke or get into bad debt by trying to help out. It can be quite a challenge when you want to help your parents financially yet yourself are struggling.
You might consider having a budget for you and your parents separately, saving, or setting up an emergency fund just to ensure that you have a backup in case of an emergency.
Cameron Huddleston, author of Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk: How to Have Essential Conversations With Your Parents About Their Finances says, “You can wind up jeopardizing your own finances by stepping in and doing more than you can afford. If you can afford to help them, you have to establish boundaries,”
So, know your limits and stick to them.
Is it just money that your parents need?
According to Christina Steinorth, a psychotherapist and author of Cue Cards for Life: Thoughtful Tips for Better Relationships, there are more needs that come with old age beyond money.
“Aging is a series of losses — loss of employment, health and energy, friends, mobility, and independence,” she says.
Sometimes it may not be about money. It could be that they need your empathy and understanding.
You can also call regularly to check on them and know how they are doing and just have light conversations with them.
Be patient and sensitive with them. Visit them regularly if possible and create lots of memories as well.
As your parents get older, they may turn to you for financial support, and taking care of your elderly parents can be stressful. Both mentally and financially.
If your parents are struggling financially, you can provide both monetary or non-monetary support to improve their lives. But before that, communicate, evaluate their needs and your capacity to meet them, look out for insurance options, etc.
Taking the time now to plan for this situation will help take some of the stress out of the situation for you, your family, and your parents.