The number of people taking care of an aging parent has soared in the past 15 years. It is estimated that nearly 10 million adult children over age 50 now care for an aging parent. In 1994, only 3 percent of men and 9 percent of women helped provide basic care for a parent. In 2012, 22 percent of men and 34 percent of women provided such care, which is defined as helping with dressing, feeding, bathing, and other personal care needs. This level of help goes well beyond grocery shopping, driving parents to appointments, and helping them with financial matters. And it’s more stressful as well.
In taking the time to provide family care, working Americans lose an estimated $3 trillion in lifetime wages, with average losses of $324,044 for women and $283,716 for men. With these costs and other money issues in mind, Here are 10 quick tips to caring for an aging family member.
1. Think very carefully before quitting a job to help a parent. Gaining time may be offset by not only your loss of current income but also damage to your retirement savings. If you leave work, what are the odds of finding work in the future? Would your job skills still be attractive to prospective employers if you didn’t work for several years?
2. Would you lose other helpful benefits if you left your job? In addition to your own health insurance, are there employee disability, life insurance, and long-term care insurance policies that would be very costly to replace? Check out your employer’s flex-time and family leave policies. Perhaps they would allow you to keep your job.
3. Make a caregiving budget. Before making a lifestyle decision with financial consequences, put together a comprehensive look at what you are spending on caregiving. Make a companion list of your parent’s resources and how they might be better used to support caregiving activities.
4. Explore free or low-cost public benefits. Several websites can provide help in identifying and getting help with caregiving tasks.. The National Council on Aging, Agency on Aging, and in Kansas City the Shepherd Center are all good resources.
5. Learn about Medicare and Medicaid. Think Medicare covers nursing-home stays? It does not? Medicaid does, but only people who have exhausted most of their assets qualify for Medicaid-paid nursing home benefits. What kind of Medicare coverage does your parent have? Do they also have a Medigap or Medicare Advantage policy? A drug plan? What are the co-pays, out-of-pocket limits, and other financial aspects of their insurance?
6. Understand the costs of keeping your parent in their home. Most people want to grow older in their own home, surrounded by possessions and memories. How much will such “aging in place” cost, and can you find help? Will you need to modify the home in any way. Kansas City has some great remodeling companies who work solely for Aging in Place modifications
7. Consider professional help. If your parent’s needs are extensive and challenging, consider hiring a geriatric-care manager who can put together a care plan for you, and can often identify community resources to reduce your own expenses and time. They can assist in medical oversight and navigation as well.
8. Watch out for financial scams. Financial abuse of the elderly has, sadly, become a growth industry during the nation’s tough economic times. Make sure your parents are protected from making hasty, poor, and expensive financial decisions.
9. Have “the conversation.” Make sure you understand what your parents want should you wind up with the legal power and responsibility to make decisions for them. This conversation may be uncomfortable for both of you, but it is essential. If you don’t know the ins and outs of a power of attorney, a living will, or a healthcare proxy—and few people do—find an eldercare expert or attorney to help. Also have end of life conversations about care wishes that cannot be put on to paper.
10. Make your own retirement plan. How are you fixed for retirement? Will you be able to support yourself? How might your financial future be affected by taking care of a parent? Are there steps you need to take to deal with these implications?
ConciergeCare can be found at www.conciergecareinc.com or you can reach them by phone at 913.553.6226. If you missed last month’s article, you can find it here. These articles are just small tid-bits of information that ConciergeCare can help provide. If you or anyone you know is in a position to care for aging family, please attend our free seminar on June 26th. More info here.