No parent wants to be a burden to their children—emotionally, physically or financially. While each generation faces the same caregiving issues the one before had, with new technology and services available to help, both the caregiver and the one they take care of can manage senior care costs and thrive.
The Daily Cost of Caregiving
Taking care of aging parents can take a toll on the caregiver’s quality of life and future:
- In 2015, 34.2 million adults in the United States acted as a caregiver to someone 50 years or older—with no reimbursement—according to a survey conducted by the National Alliance for Caregiving and the AARP Public Policy Institute.
- AARP estimates the annual average out-of-pocket cost of caregiving is nearly $7,000 a year.
- Taking into account that a caregiver between the ages of 18 and 34 has an average household income of $42,200 annually, taking care of aging parents can become a major financial burden on young families. Most also become caregivers when they are at the height of saving for their own retirement, which could lead to difficulty balancing multiple financial priorities.
“Many caregivers are so stressed that they do not realize how these out-of-pocket costs of caregiving add up,” says Cindy Hounsell, President of the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER). Common out-of-pocket senior care costs include:
- Transportation: Doctor visits, errands and other activities to remain socially connected.
- Food and household goods: Meal preparation, grocery shopping, as well as a wide range of household goods, clothing and personal items.
- Medical: Pharmaceuticals, doctors’ consultations, medical procedures and rehabilitation.
- Lost time: Most doctor appointments and trips to the bank must take place during working hours, which could mean taking time off from work. While some jobs are flexible, many aren’t.
Balancing Senior Care Costs
The average time spent caring for elderly parents is more than 24 hours a week, and one in four adult caregivers exceed 40 hours in one week, according to the same survey from the National Alliance for Caregiving and the AARP Public Policy Institute. This is like having a second job, which is why balancing your own financial and emotional needs can be challenging.
If you are caring for an elderly parent, consider these seven resources to help manage senior care costs:
1. Available Benefits
Depending on where you live, government programs like Medicaid can help in taking care of aging parents. Some states have waiver programs to help manage everyday senior care costs. “Make sure the older person you’re assisting is getting every benefit to which they are entitled,” says Catherine Roper of Caring.com. She recommends the National Council on Aging’s BenefitsCheckUp®, a free service to help determine which programs are available to both you and your loved ones.
2. Caregiving Services
When taking care of aging parents, in-home care can be expensive and involve a mountain of forms. Today, there are many independent, qualified caregivers available. For example, retired nurses offer their paid services through websites like CareFamily and Care.com. Also, most seniors living alone at home have empty bedrooms and, “often a young person is looking for ways to save on housing costs,” Roper says. “Swapping some caregiving tasks for low-cost (or even free) housing can be a great option, in addition to being an enjoyable experience for both the older and younger person.”
The elderly may also have vehicles at their home that are rarely utilized, Roper says. “They’d be happy to offer it to a young person in exchange for driving them where they need to go. This can be a great way for a young person to save on car payments,” she says.
3. Financial Aid
Sites like Benefits.gov and Benefitscheckup.org can provide a list of programs and benefits for which your elderly parent may be eligible. Veterans Affairs, nonprofit and charitable organizations (like Senior Services), your local church (some provide day care options for seniors) and long-term care insurance are just a few other financial options for help in caring for elderly parents. “Depending on the state you live in, and your loved one’s financial situation, it may be possible to get an hourly wage for the caregiving tasks a young person would be doing anyway,” Roper says.
Did you know? Caring.com awards scholarship money twice a year to people juggling caregiving tasks with academic programs. You can find out more here.
4. Home Monitoring
If full-time assistance isn’t required, installing a home monitoring system can aid in making sure your loved one is still supervised in case of an accident. There are also self-monitoring devices that can be worn and will automatically detect if an elderly parent takes a fall.
5. Meal Services
Local outreach programs such as Meals on Wheels, CarePathways and Home Bistro/DineWise provide hot meals to homebound individuals and can help keep senior care costs down. Such services can also help in caring for elderly parents with regulated, controlled diets.
6. Support Groups
Always remember you are not alone. So many caregivers run into similar emotional and financial struggles when taking care of aging parents. Reach out locally and through online forums. Someone may have solutions you haven’t considered.
Everyone can help out when caring for elderly parents. Split up care duties with other family members when possible. Even long-distance family can help with managing bills, visits (which means a break for the primary caregiver) and companionship via the phone or video calling. Just knowing people care can ease anxiety or brighten a day.
Recognizing the heavy burdens of caring for elderly parents is the first step to maintaining balance during a tough time. A bit of research and planning ahead could help guide new caregivers toward making better decisions. But most importantly, cherish the quality time with your loved ones—these moments make it possible to embrace the good days and look forward to the future.
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