Dear Rich Lifer,
Becoming a caregiver can happen when you least expect it.
Say a parent trips, breaks a leg, and can’t get around any longer. Or suppose you visit over the holidays and discover rotting food in the frig, the range with a burner still on, and a mountain of unopened mail on the dining room table.
Now the responsibility of providing the care has fallen on you.
You’re not alone. Families provide 80% of the long-term care in the U.S.
And according to a recent study by the Family Caregiver Alliance, about 34.2 million Americans provide unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older.
All this care takes a toll on the caregiver, especially for those caring for family members with dementia:
- More than half said their social life has suffered
- 45% feel alone
- Physical and mental health has declined for many
- Many feel a financial burden
It can be the most stressful job you’ve ever had and can trigger emotions like guilt, resentment, and anger. Burnout is frequent. So you’re going to need all the help you can get.
Experts recommend that the first step is to create a team. That could include: other family members, a circle of your loved one’s friends, and neighbors.
Plus there are tons of places where you can go for assistance. And the sooner you ask, the better.
Here are a few:
- Community Resource Finder lists events and support groups in your area
- AARP’s online Caregiving Community where you can post questions and comments, and read advice from experts.
- Caregiver Action Network provides practical help, support, and information for caregivers.
- John Hopkins University’s online course on caregiving
- American Cancer Society
- Family Caregiver Alliance offers information, support, and resources for family caregivers.
- National Alliance for Caregiving is a coalition of national organizations focusing on advancing family caregiving.
- Alzheimer’s Association’s Training and Education Center
You May be Able to Get Paid
Latest figures show that the annual economic value of informal care provided by family members is $470 BILLION.
And the financial toll on caregivers can be life changing …
A study by Merrill Lynch found that 68% of family caregivers spend $190 BILLION a year for out-of-pocket, care-related expenses.
- 67% had to reduce their own living expenses
- 63% had to withdraw money from savings or sold assets to provide care
- 34% spend between 21% and 100% of their monthly budget on caregiving expenses
- 32% stopped or reduced contributions to savings/retirement plans
- 21% borrowed money to provide care
What’s more, there are lost hourly wages, reduced Social Security benefits, and forgone retirement plan contributions.
But depending on where your loved one lives, you might be able to get paid for the care you provide.
Medicare, the health insurance for people age 65 and older, does not pay for long-term care services, such as in-home care and adult day-care services.
Some states, though, have programs that will pay family members who are providing care to someone who is on Medicaid — the government health insurance for low-income Americans.
More information on programs that may be available to help ease the financial strain of caring for a family member can be found at:
- Your local Medicaid office.
- Your local Area Agency on Aging has a National Caregiver Support Program that funds support for family caregivers.
- The American Elder Care Research Organization has a list of the Medicaid and non-Medicaid programs available in each state.
Organizations that offer financial help with specific diseases. Go to the Family Caregiver Alliance site and scroll down to Disease-Specific Organizations.
Before It Happens…
Parents are living longer. With that though, comes a greater chance of chronic illnesses and a higher probability of needing your help as a caregiver … a task for which you probably have no training or experience.
But by taking a few steps beforehand, you’ll be much better equipped if that time ever comes.
Find out where your parents keep important documents, such as Powers of Attorney, health care proxies, Wills, trusts, and insurance policies.
Where do they bank, do they have a safe deposit box, where is their checkbook?
Who is their attorney, accountant, doctor, insurance agent, and financial advisor?
Discussing finances and caregiving with parents can be a challenge. Some may see it as a taboo subject. In fact, 75% of family caregivers have never discussed their financial role with their care recipients.
However, understanding your loved one’s finances and wishes while they are still able to communicate clearly can mean all the difference in the care you are able to provide … without turning your world upside down.
To a richer life,