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The unexpected costs of caring for an aging parent

Caregiving in the U.S. is on the rise and the numbers are stunning! More than 53 million adults care for a spouse, elderly parents or relative, or a special-needs child.

Adult children are most often tasked with caring for their elderly parents – especially as most seniors say they plan to stay in their home as they age.

There’s a perception that “aging in place” allows seniors to save money they’ll eventually leave to their children. But the reality is that, depending on how much care a person needs or what health issues they face, staying in the home can become very costly to their grown children, in many ways.

The hard costs of caregiving

Adult children caregivers help their loved ones with everything from running errands and prepping meals to dressing, bathing, and using the toilet. Many times, they’re responsible for medical appointments and transportation.

If you choose to take on an elderly parent’s care (or have no other option), you should be prepared for the 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.

Effect on your work and income

When taking on the caregiver role, adult children often rearrange their work schedules, reduce their hours, or even quit their jobs altogether, losing much of their personal income. Add to that the loss of pension earnings and Social Security benefits, and studies show adult-child caregivers in the U.S. suffer a cumulative loss of nearly $3 trillion in earnings. Women face the biggest losses – they also make up the majority of caregivers.

At the same time, caregivers may find that they’re taking on extra expenses. On average, family members serving as caregivers spend nearly $7,000 of their own money each year on their loved ones, helping cover the cost of things like medical bills, utilities, and food.

Impact on your own retirement

But perhaps the biggest unforeseen cost that many caregivers is the hit to their retirement savings. That loss can come in two forms.

First, working less, making less money, and increasing expenses frequently mean that the caregiver has little left over at the end of the month so they’re contributing less (or nothing) to their retirement savings account.

Secondly, 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.

Funding aging parent's care

If you become a caregiver to your aging parent, 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 your parent is eligible for any government programs such as Medicaid, veteran, 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

There’s no way to know for sure what kind of care our parents will need as they age. But we can prepare for their future needs, starting with a frank discussion.

Parents and their adult children should talk about the best long-term living situation, especially as they anticipate any health challenges down the road.

It’s why some seniors consider moving to a continuing care retirement community (CCRC, also known as a life plan community) like Newton Presbyterian Manor. Such communities offer residents a full continuum of care services – from independent living to assisted living or 24-hour healthcare as their needs change.

On the surface, CCRCs can seem expensive but the peace of mind they offer to both the aging parent and the adult child may just turn out to be priceless.

Contact us online to learn how we can help or call us at 316-283-5400.

The above article was written by Brad Breeding of myLifeSite and is legally licensed for use.

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