Help a Caregiver You Know
- Offer to help clean and cook, wrap presents, go shopping, or pick up the kids.
- If your family is caregiving, suggest a potluck holiday meal or secret Santa gift exchange to save time and money.
- The best gift you could give a caregiver is help. Give them the day off!
- Remember to say “thank you” to a caregiver and let them know they are appreciated.
- If a member of your family is caregiving for a relative this holiday season, send a thank you gift.
Click the link above for additional tips for those caring for a loved one during the holidays.
Recognized by President Clinton when he signed the first proclamation in 1997, National Family Caregiver’s Month has been proclaimed by an American President annually ever since. Many states and dozens of local municipalities have also proclaimed November, NFC Month.
Day in and day out, more than 75 million family caregivers in this country fulfill a vital role in caring for elderly, aging parents. Click the link above to learn more about the role that caregivers play and why this month especially, we should join together to celebrate and recognize them.
According to data collected by the National Alliance for Caregiving, there are over 66 million family caregivers in the United States. That translates to nearly 40 percent of the U.S. adult population…a stunning statistic. This number includes people who are caring for the sick or disabled, but the majority of these caregivers are assisting an elderly family member.
Other than a spouse, the most common people to be tasked with caring for an elderly loved one are adult children. In fact, a study conducted by MetLife showed that 10 million adult children over age 50 were acting as a caregiver for their aging parent(s), a number that equals approximately a quarter of all Baby Boomers.
These caregivers are helping their loved ones with everything from running errands and meal preparation to dressing, bathing, and using the toilet. In certain cases, families are able to outsource some or all of these tasks to a paid caregiver; other families are unable to afford this option or believe it is their duty to care for their aging parents.
A large majority of seniors hope to stay in their own home for as long as possible–a concept referred to as “aging in place.” There’s a common perception that this is the most cost-effective option for seniors, and some people choose this route because they hope to save money to eventually leave to their adult children. But the reality is that, depending on the level of care that a person needs as they age and if they develop health issues, staying in the home can become very costly to their grown children, in more ways than one.
The hard costs of caregiving
If you choose to take on an elderly parent’s care (or have no other option), there are potentially many costs associated with becoming an unpaid caregiver. There is the emotional cost–caring for a sick or elderly person can be extremely stressful and mentally draining. There’s also a physical cost–the strain on the body can leave you with sore muscles in additional to general exhaustion. But one of the sometimes-unforeseen costs of becoming a caregiver is the financial impact on the adult child.
When taking on the caregiver role, adult children often have to reduce their hours at work or even quit their job altogether, thus slashing their personal income. Add to that the loss of pension earnings and Social Security benefits, and according to the MetLife study, adult-child caregivers in the U.S. suffer a cumulative loss of nearly $3 trillion in earnings. For sons, the average in lost income is $283,716 per person. The news is even worse for daughters, who lose an average of $324,044 in earnings as a result of their caregiving responsibilities.
In addition to the hit to their income, caregivers may find themselves simultaneously taking on extra expenses. On average, family members serving as caregivers are spending nearly $7,000 of their own money each year on their loved one’s expenses–helping cover the cost of things like medical bills, utilities, and food.
Jeopardizing your own retirement
But perhaps the biggest unforeseen cost that many adult children pay when they become an aging parent’s caregiver is the hit to their retirement savings. That loss can come in two forms.
First, working less, making less money, and increasing expenses frequently means that the caregiver has little left over at the end of the month and is thus contributing less (or nothing) to their retirement savings account. And this savings deficit often comes at an inopportune time. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, the average age of an adult child serving as caregiver is 49.2. Many people anticipate bolstering their savings during their 50s, since they have perhaps paid off a large part of their house and gotten the kids through college. This scenario makes taking on caregiver responsibilities in your late 40s or early 50s rather badly timed.
The second way that caregiving can be detrimental to adult children’s future retirement is that it is not uncommon for people to dip into their savings in order to pay those previously mentioned additional expenses–using their own nest egg dollars to compensate for their lost income and help pay for mom and dad’s costs. This is an ill-advised decision, but some people have no other choice in order to make ends meet during this period of reduced or eliminated income and increased care expenses.
Funding aging parents’ care
If you choose to become a caregiver to your aging parent (or have no other option), here are a few ways to manage their care and expenses while looking out for your own long-term financial security (and mental and physical health).
- Find out if there is a long-term care insurance policy, which may provide financial assistance for certain care services.
- Check to see if there are any government programs that your parent is eligible for, such as Medicaid, veteran’s, or disability benefits.
- Look at your parents’ expenses (as well as your own) and determine if there are simple cost-cutting opportunities such as a less expensive cable package or fewer meals out. Do anything you can to avoid dipping into your own retirement savings.
- Enlist the help of siblings or other family members, both financially and time-wise. No one person can care for another full-time with no breaks.
- Consider if it might be more cost-effective to hire a home care worker to assist your parent so that you can continue to work or can at least take less time off.
Preparing for your aging parents’ future
Having a crystal ball would come in handy in so many life situations but perhaps none more so than knowing what will happen as a person ages. It’s this unknown that can create so much stress as our parents grow older and we must make decisions about their care. This is why I strongly encourage adult children to have a frank discussion with their parents about their long-term living situation and their potential care needs down the road.
It’s also why some seniors consider the possibility of moving to a retirement community such as a continuing care retirement community (CCRC, also known as a life plan community), which offers residents a full continuum of care services, if and when needed. Yes, on the surface, CCRCs can seem expensive and some much more pricey than others, but the peace of mind they offer to both the aging parent as well as the adult child may just turn out to be priceless.
For Digital Use (please use the exact hyperlink):
The above article was written by Brad Breeding of myLifeSite and is legally licensed for use.
With so many of us living with and caring for our parents, we are constantly searching for ways to incorporate that care into our daily lives…and our vacations.
Remember back when our travel plans required that we consider feedings, strollers, diaper changing, and playgrounds? Now, we are considering walkers, oxygen tanks, hydration, and benches for resting. It can be challenging to assure you have covered all your bases and to assure everyone will have a smooth, enjoying, and relaxing vacation. Click the link above to learn some tips that will help when traveling with your aging parents.
As your parents age, there may come a time when they are not able to live as independently as before, whether because of a chronic illness, injury, or decline in general health. As an adult-child of an aging parent, it may fall upon you to begin the conversation about a move to a retirement community or even assisted living, depending on the degree of need. Having this conversation can be challenging and emotional, especially because the majority of aging Americans are more attracted to the idea of “aging in place” in their current home.
Here are four tips that will help you approach this fragile subject with empathy and openness that will put you and your loved one on the same page about this transition. To learn more, click the link above.
Too often we underestimate the time obligation of caregiving. Adult children step up to be the primary hands-on caregiver having no idea that they may spend as much time caring for their parents as they spent raising their children.
We tend to think that we can burn the candle at both ends – that we can do it all. We think we can manage kids, career, spouse, house, and parents. If caregiving were a sprint, we could probably do it all. Unfortunately, it’s not. Caregiving is a marathon that you could easily spend 15 years focused on the health and well-being of your parents.
Further, this race is no one-man show, but rather a relay race. Your team will consist of siblings, an attorney or two, doctors, financial advisors, clergy, neighbors, geriatric specialists and more. Ask them for help. Encourage them to notify you if they have concerns. Remember to have the HIPPA-compliant releases signed so you can access your parents’ medical records and speak freely to the professionals providing care. Work with your parents to obtain a Power of Attorney (POA) before you think you need one. Engaging the assistance of an attorney who specializes in eldercare will help assure you that you have covered all your parents’ needs and concerns.
Caregiving is certainly a marathon. If you prepare for the race, you will prevail.
This article was written by Barbara McVicker
Caring for an aging family member is a labor of love. But study after study also shows the emotional, physical, and even financial stress that the caregiver incurs as a result.
Research conducted by MetLife revealed that approximately 10 million adult children over the age of 50 (that’s roughly a quarter of all Baby Boomers!) have taken on the role of caregiver for their aging parents, helping with a variety of tasks–everything from running errands and cooking to bathing and using the toilet. It’s a lot to take on, especially for caregivers who may also be juggling a career and their own children, which is likely why caregivers over age 50 who work and provide care to a parent are more likely to have fair or poor health as compared to peers who do not provide elder care.
A few other noteworthy stats from the study:
- Adult daughters are more likely to provide help with daily care, and sons are more likely to provide monetary assistance.
- The total estimated aggregate lost wages, pension, and Social Security benefits of these adult-child caregivers is nearly $3 trillion.
- For women, the total individual amount of lost income (wages, Social Security benefits, pension) due to leaving the labor force early and/or reducing hours of work because of caregiving responsibilities averages $324,044. For men, it averages $283,716.*
Yet despite all of these physical and financial drawbacks, the adult-child-as-caregiver trend continues to grow rapidly in the United States. The MetLife study showed that the number of adult children providing personal care and/or financial assistance to an aging parent has more than tripled over the past 15 years.
Caring for the caregiver
It seems that caring for an aging parent is here to stay. So what can caregivers do to help alleviate some of the stress associated with the gig? Click the link above to learn more.
By: Peg Carmany
When someone you love is diagnosed with a life limiting illness, it may be a time when the kaleidoscope of your life suddenly snaps into focus. Or it may be a time when the laser focus of your life becomes scattered. And very likely, there will be some of both. Of the research I have done, and the practical tips I can share from my own experience, these are my favorite pieces of advice:
1. Remember there is no right answer on how you’re supposed to act, and you should not assume that you are supposed to know exactly what to do and exactly how to act. It’s OK to fall apart, but one word of caution about that: try not to let the person who is ill be your primary source of comfort when you do hit a wall.
2. When trying to follow Tip 1, remember that your established role with this loved one doesn’t necessarily switch at the moment of diagnosis. Perhaps only one of you has ever been good under stress? It’s okay to keep it that way. Both of you may take great comfort in continuing on with familiar patterns.
3. Make it a priority to show your love as your loved one is facing what may be overwhelming and scary. It’s not all roses and chocolates – be authentic, be honest, and be yourself. Express gratitude to them for how they have positively impacted your life – and share happy memories – and don’t be afraid to say goodbye, tenderly.
4. Respect their authority to make their own decisions, whether you like it or not. These are their choices, not yours.
5. Keep things as normal as possible. Continue watching your favorite tv shows together or listening to their favorite music, it can be a very meaningful thing.
6. Laugh when you can, and don’t be afraid to poke a little fun at the whole situation. A sense of humor will lighten any mood!
7. And perhaps most importantly: listen, and give advice only when asked. This one can be the most challenging. Often, we are great talkers, but not the best listeners.
Remember, your loved one needs your emotional support. If you are feeling overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Often family and friends who live near by are more than willing to help with errands. And, if you need further support, Wesley Hospice can visit your home, the community you live in, and even hospitals.
We send our deepest condolences to the families who are faced with a loved one being diagnosed with a life limiting illness. And, we hope that with these tips you’ll be able to better love your loved one during this time.
When visiting an assisted living community be sure to ask these 10 questions:
Is memory care available?
If your memory declines, can the community continue to care for you? Many places have memory care in place, for people who move in needing that care, but also for those who live in the community and develop certain memory conditions during their stay. Memory care should be a safe and secure area in the community.
Are the rooms private?
If privacy is a concern for you be sure to ask if the rooms are private. Some assisted living facilities require residents to share a room, while others have private rooms available.
Do they provide individualized care plans for each resident?
Check to see if there is a written care plan, individualized for each resident. Every person is different and will need different plans for care. This care plan can include things like medications, diet, and exercise.
How often are meals served?
Are meals available 7 days a week? If so, how many meals do you get a day?
What kind of services and activities are provided?
Do they have laundry, transportation or worship services? What about a podiatrist or neurologist? Is there an assisted living activity coordinator?
Can you bring furniture, bedding, and other items from your home?
Bringing items from home may make you feel more comfortable. What limitations do you have on what you can bring? Many places give you the opportunity to bring in furniture, bedding, and knickknacks.
Can you have pets?
Are you allowed to bring pets into the community? If so, what pets can you bring? Many communities allow you to bring in cats, dogs, fish and even birds! Make sure you ask this question and find out the cost associated with bringing an animal.
Can you and your visitors come and go at will?
It’s a common practice for assisted living communities to allow residents, families and friends in and out at will. But, check with the community and state regulations to ensure that this is the case.
Is the community safe?
Many communities have security guards and cameras. Other questions to ask would be, are there locks on the windows and doors? Are there well-lit rooms and hallways? Is there a generator, in case of an emergency?
What if I run out of money while living here?
Out living funds can be a concern for older adults. Some communities will give you a 30-day notice to move out if this occurs. Others, have policies in place that may help cover the cost of living and care.
What other questions have you found helpful in your assisted living search?
If your parent or loved one is struggling to make friends at their retirement community, look no further. Sometimes it can be hard to get to know people at a new place. Luckily, we have some great tips for how to get your loved one involved.
Most retirement communities have activities that range from physical fitness and day trips, to music and crafts. And, there are typically resident groups, such as writer’s groups or resident councils. The range of activities allows residents to choose the activities they are interested in and truly enjoy. Doing the things they love will increase the likelihood that they return to a future activity, try new activities, and meet likeminded people.
Also, keep in mind that activities are typically based on the level of care. This means that the activities are divided into groups for assisted living, independent living, skilled nursing, and even memory care. This may ease your loved one’s mind, when worrying about if they can properly engage in the activity.
If your loved one is still hesitant to get involved, try to develop a relationship with their activity coordinator. This is the person who plans and attends all the activities for their level of care. They can reach out to see what types of things your loved one is interested in, and help motivate them to attend future activities.
The activity coordinator could also provide you with a calendar of upcoming events that families can attend. Family events are a great way for your loved one to ease into meeting new members of the community. If you are attending these events, try to encourage conversation with other families. This will help your loved one develop relationships in the community. And, it can help you to develop relationships with people in your same position.
What tips have you tried to motivate your loved ones to become involved?
For the activity calendars at Wesley Glen, please click here.