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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.
Taking care of aging parents can take a toll on the caregiver’s quality of life and future:
“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:
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 PDF opens in a new window. 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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