When your elderly parents run out of money, paying for care and expenses can become difficult, especially if they were privately paying for assisted living or other senior living community and assistance. Once your parent has exhausted their savings and other resources, they become eligible for many social welfare programs. You may also decide to take in your elderly parent and sell their house, if they own one, to cover their caregiving expenses.

Assistance programs for seniors vary from state to state, but Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income benefits are offered in all 50 states. Some states have filial responsibility laws that may hold you financially responsible for your parents when they run out of money. States with filial responsibility laws allow health care systems to sue the children of patients who owe a significant amount of money. 

What Are Filial Support Laws?

Filial support laws establish that adult children of impoverished parents are legally obligated to pay for their parent’s care if the parent can’t meet their own needs. The courts often have free discretion to decide which children are most likely to be able to pay for the debt when ordering support. These laws haven’t been commonly used, but as the baby boomer generation ages and requires support, enforcement is becoming more common, with nursing homes and other medical providers suing adult children of patients for the costs of services provided.

Twenty-six states have filial support laws on the books that can be used to mandate adult children to pay for their parent’s care, and how those laws are executed depends on the state in which the parents and children reside. In many states, if the parent qualifies for Medicaid coverage for long-term care, the adult children have nothing to worry about. However, for those living in states with filial responsibility laws, it may be worth speaking to an experienced elder law attorney for more information about what to expect.

What Assistance Is Available for Seniors When They Run Out of Money?

When seniors run out of money, they often qualify for government assistance, which adult children can help them apply for. The exact assistance available depends on the senior’s state of residence. All states have Medicaid programs, which often have waivers that include assistance for long-term care, nursing home placement and in-home assistance. Most states don’t have assistance to cover room and board in assisted living communities, but they may cover the costs for medical care and assistance beyond the base price.

Seniors may also receive Supplemental Security Income, which provides a monthly stipend for living expenses, often on top of Social Security benefits. Unlike Social Security benefits, which workers pay into as they work, SSI isn’t based on work history. SSI is available for individuals who are low-income, disabled, blind or at least 65 years old. Qualifying for SSI often allows seniors to also qualify for Medicaid and food assistance programs for additional financial assistance.