Caring for elderly parents is anything but easy and often costly.

I know because I spend upwards of $200 a week on gas for a couple of round trips to help my momma! She lives 2 hours north and – yup – won't move to us!

But that's OK. She has her friends and life around her, even when she can't walk, think, or sleep well, her friends and home seem more important especially when aging and ailing, ever notice?

Anyway, research is showing that nearly 7 million Americans care for an elderly relative from a distance, reports the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC).

I too am in that bracket of statistics. So I had to come up with a strategy. Because I've been in finance and business for decades, I had been using that premise all along and didn't even know it!

I created a separate travel (caregiving) account for most of the extra burden – and I can justify a few added expenses because I inherited some money from my dad over a dozen years ago.

But more than that, my momma lives on a set pension and because her medication alone keeps her bottom line balanced, she can't afford extra's like a dinner out or new blouse or even gifting to her family.

How do I know this? Because I took the time to research her net worth and find out how much she can spend or not each month.

She can't spend over and above her accommodation at the Villa (which thankfully includes meals, laundry and general housekeeping!)

So that's where I come in. I add her to my birthday cards and gifts and include her as if she and we were one.

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If you're like most caregiving people, choosing to add an extra expense to your already full menu of spending could be stressful.

Making wise decisions about what, where and how much to spend becomes very important.

So read on and let me help you find a few more solutions to making your lifestyle richer as you take on caregiving responsibilities.

This next suggestion will build the big picture and could help you get perspective on how to approach the subject of caring for your loved ones.

Let's look at this cost-effective option.

The same NAC survey also noted that long-distance caregivers spend an average of $8,700 a year providing support to their loved ones– nearly twice as much as those who live closer. Travel tops the list, but there are also expenses involved with hiring people and services in your stead.

Know Mom's Needs

Alberta Caregivers Association based in Edmonton, Alberta, suggests that the number one MUST DO is to figure out exactly what your parents need when you're far away.

Is there a stack of unopened bills on the counter? Is there food in the fridge that's well past its expiration date? Is there bingo and gambling debt? Is there unnecessary spending? Are her friends ripping her off?

Then fill in as best you can with frequent phone check-ins.

Here's a template that can help diagnose the situation. If you don't know where the issue sits, you can't fix it!

First, you must find out where they sit financially!

Begin with a basic overall picture of the financial situation. Here's an example template below. Find out how much they own and fill in the blanks in the assets column.

Then determine how much they owe and fill in the liabilities column. Assets minus liabilities = net worth.

Is there enough to cover all the expenses, including their hiring you to help them from a caregiving perspective?

This exercise alone will make a huge difference determining if you and they can afford you! Click on this calculator and fill cabinet image and it will take you straight to a working template that allows you to fill in the numbers. Save it and play with it!

Calculate your love one's net worth on this spreadsheet! See how the numbers jump and add up!

If your parent just needs help with chores, errands, and the like, you may be able to put together a piecemeal care plan that costs nothing.

Talk with family and friends who live nearer to your parents to see how they might be willing to help — whether it's taking mom to the doctor, having her over for meals, or doing her laundry.

I'm lucky because the Villa she lives in now handles this for her.

But you may not be in a similar situation as I am.

You then must figure out how you can assist from a distance. You may, for example, arrange for food deliveries from a grocery store or for a cleaning person to come weekly. You can also help your parent manage money, if that's an issue.

You'll eventually want a durable power of attorney, which authorizes you to make financial decisions on her or his behalf. But for basic bills, simply ask your parent to provide account numbers; then set up online access so you can automate payments and deposits. (If Mom and Dad don't want you meddling, hire a daily money manager, who will do those tasks for $35 to $100 an hour.)

I don't want to overwhelm you. But this is important! Tossing too much at the same time can get overwhelming. Besides, you need to stay calm and guilt-free throughout this process.

You would do yourself a huge favour by filling in one for your own net worth. This too is what determines your level of comfort with finances and your level of support!!

Just click on this image and it will take you to a working spreadsheet. Save it, play in it, find out how much you're worth and whether you can afford to help another!

Good luck and do yourself a huge favour. Find out!

Until then, have a great day, chat later and great job!

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