COVID19 exposed numerous safety concerns for nursing home patients and staff. Concerns include a shortage of personal protective equipment, frequent physical contact, understaffing, shared rooms, cross-facility, staffing, and patient transfers. Reports estimate that 39% of Covid19 related deaths are from nursing home residents and staff. Although re-structuring of nursing home and long-term care facilities are underway, it is not an immediate process. This has more Americans considering having their elderly family members reside with them once they are unable to care for themselves.
An estimated 65.7 million people provide care for an aging family member. A third of family caregivers provide help to at least two people. Caregiving can be difficult. Those in need of care may fear being a burden. They may be reluctant to ask for help. Caregiving for an elderly family member has significant physical, emotional, and financial costs.
Moving elderly loved ones into your home is costly, with over half of Americans caring for elderly parents doing so without adequate resources. Children and grandchildren may often have to make sacrifices for their parents and grandparents. It is important to consider and plan for the costs associated with an aging family so that you can be properly prepared when you expect them to live with you long-term. Moving in a loved one is often the best financial option to make. It may be a difficult decision, but being prepared for caregiving costs will help the transition. Here are 7 considerations to make when determining the costs of caring for an aging family member.
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1.General Expectations. Daughters are more likely to care for aging family members. 66% of family caregivers are female, with an average age of 48. Men are often reported to carry a more financial role. At the same time, women are more likely to aid with personal hygiene and upkeep like feeding, bathing, and dressing—the older the individual, the more care they will need.
2.Time Management. It might help to create a list of daily, weekly, and monthly care tasks to help you understand how much help is needed during the day, night, and weekends. This will shed light on how much supervision is needed and when. Take notes on when you help your person with certain things; this will help gauge how often they may ask for help and when. Reports estimate that 19.3-21.9 hours a week are needed to care for a family member. Family and career can make caring for an aging family member difficult. Family members report inaccurate estimations about time spent caregiving.
3.Preparing Your Home. You may have to remodel or renovate before moving an aging family member inside. Space needed must be taken into consideration. Your elderly loved one’s mobility must be taken into consideration as well. Stairs may not be best for people with walking issues. Small things common for seniors to have are grab bars in the bathroom and slip-resistant strips in the shower.
4.Estimating Living Expenses. Daily living expenses increase when an aging family member moves in. Things like extra groceries, soap, toothpaste, household cleaning supplies, and increased utility bills should be considered. Health care expenses are a huge strain on older adult budgets. The average cost of health care after 65 is reported to be 100,000. Individuals with chronic illnesses could pay even more than that. Be open to asking for help from siblings or other family members if you find you may not be able to carry the load alone.
5.Government Assistance. Seek out government aid, if possible. It costs more on average to care for an elderly adult than a child, yet the government often provides free services for children and limited benefits for those needing long-term support and services. Reports estimate the average cost of raising a child to the age of 17 is $234,000. The average cost of supporting an aging family member is around $140,000 and is often over a shorter period, commonly 4 years. Medicaid covers older adults with low socioeconomic status, and most seniors are eligible for Medicare. Medicare only covers medical treatment but not personal support and long-term care. Long-term care costs can be deducted from your federal income tax if your total medical expenses are above 10% of your income. If long-term care is needed, many people have little to no assistance. Families often must care for their loved ones on their own. About 18% of Americans 65 and older will qualify for Medicaid long-term care benefits.
6.Seeking Professional Advice. You may want to consult a financial planner before moving an aging family member into your home. It is reported that, in some cases, if a family member doesn’t sign a rental agreement and is not charged fair market rent, they may lose government benefit eligibility. Medicaid and Social Security consider free housing part of an income category called “in-kind support and maintenance.” There may also be tax breaks that make it beneficial to claim family members as dependents. This means paying for more than 50% of food, housing, and medical costs. A financial advisor who can look at your situation will help determine the best path for you.
7.Personal Well-Being. Caring for elderly parents is tough and stressful. Caregivers are at risk of burnout and serious health conditions. Getting home assistance may help you with your physical and mental health. Once you understand generally how much care is needed, you can determine if you need additional assistance. If you take on too much, you may burn out or become ill, which will make you unable to care for anyone. If you need help, seek it out. There are adult day programs that allow the elderly to socialize and offer you an opportunity to rest or work. You can hire an in-home caregiver. Seek out a volunteer companion program in your area. Consider respite care, which is like nursing home care for a temporary period.
Caregiving for an aging family member can lead to stress, sadness, anger, frustration, exhaustion, and impaired physical well-being. The American Psychological Association reports that caregivers for multiple generations, often parents and children, have weaker immune systems, a frequency of headaches, and back problems in comparison to non-caregivers. Depression and anxiety-related disorders are higher as well.
Caring for an aging family member is emotionally and physically exhausting. Reports show that 1 in 8 Americans between 40-60 is raising a child and caring for a parent. Taking care of an aging family often entails transportation to different places like the doctor or post office. These visits often need to happen during the workday in which the caregiver must take time off work. If that day isn’t a paid day off, the caregiver is losing income. Also, the caregiver may be losing opportunities at advancement. With losing income and having additional expenses, a caregiver can be put in a financial bind.
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Life expectancy in the United States is roughly 78 years old, well past the age many people will be able to work. It is important to consider the future of ourselves, our parents, and our children. Preparing ourselves for retirement will alleviate some of our children’s stress to help care for us at an older age. Also, discussing a plan with our parents about how they would like to be cared for and what they have done to prepare themselves for that care is necessary. Communication and planning are key to being properly prepared to care for aging family members or be cared for as aging family members.