Mom or Dad moving in? What to know about becoming a caregiver

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After spending decades as your parents’ child, becoming the caregiver for Mom or Dad can be a jarring role reversal.

Yet for an estimated 42 million Americans, providing care for a parent or other adult relative age 50 or older is a daily reality, according to a recent study from Seniorly that looked at caregiver fatigue in the U.S. amid the pandemic. Some caregivers — those in the so-called Sandwich Generation — feel the squeeze from both sides as they tend to both children and parents.

When you’ve got caregivers working from home, caring for loved ones … they can really start feeling burned out,” said Marlena del Hierro, vice president of partnerships at Seniorly.

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Over the past six years, the share of family caregivers who say their own health status is fair or poor has jumped to 21% from 12%, according to Seniorly. And, 23% say being a caregiver has come at the expense of their own health.

There’s about a 70% chance that a 65-year-old today will need some form of long-term care, which is generally defined as help with daily living activities.

The cost of such care can be prohibitive. For instance, you can spend upwards of $100,000 a year for a semi-private room at a nursing home, according to Genworth. For help in your home, the annual median cost for a health aide is $61,776, and homemaker services is $59,484.

For individuals lacking either insurance or assets to cover the full cost of care, the responsibility often falls to adult children.

Caregivers — 60% of whom work full-time — often end up shouldering at least some of the associated cost of providing care. Annual out-of-pocket costs for caregivers are an average 26% of household income, with that share being higher for Latinos (47%) and Blacks (34%), according to AARP.

Moreover, much of what caregivers do for their aging parents doesn’t directly relate to personal or medical care. That includes managing finances, housework and transportation.

If you’re nearing the point when you’ll be caring for another adult due to their illness or disability — or any age-related infirmity — it’s worth doing what you can to prepare for it.

“I’ve found that preparing to provide care to another person takes a village and I do not advise anyone to go it alone,” said certified financial planner Nicole Gopoian Wirick, founder of Prosperity Wealth Strategies in Birmingham, Michigan.

For instance, if you are the person who will actively be providing the bulk of the care, other family members may be able to contribute even if they’re not nearby.

“A lot of times, a sibling will say ‘I’m far away but I can make phone calls to look at resources,'” said CFP Sandy Adams, a partner at the Center for Financial Planning in Southfield, Michigan. “Or if finances need to be managed, with everything being online these days, someone across the country can do that.”

I’d hope people would look to see if there are ways to cover costs without having to dip into their own savings.
Sandy Adams
Partner at the Center for Financial Planning

You also should look into what resources may be available to reduce any financial burden the care might place on you, she said.

“I’d hope people would look to see if there are ways to cover costs without having to dip into their own savings,” Adams said. “I think a lot of people are afraid of asking for help … but this is the last thing you want to not ask for help with.”

Local government or community agencies can support caregivers via things like respite programs so you can get a break.

“There are grants out there that can give the caregiver a break to go and do something for their own mental health,” said del Hierro. Maybe the caregiver wants to go on vacation, so they could use the grant money to hire [professional] caregivers.”

If you’re uncertain where to start in your search for local help, your state should have an agency that focuses on aging and elder care. You can also look into nonprofits that provide financial help or services for elder care, such as transportation to and from medical appointments.

Additionally, the federal Administration on Aging has a search tool to help connect you with local services for older adults and their families.

Support groups can also be helpful, Adams said.

“You can vent and find out how other people deal with the stress of caregiving,” she said.

And if financial resources are plentiful enough, get help, Adams said.

“Consider hiring a geriatric care manager to coordinate the care for your parent to ease the burden on the family,” she said.

Sophie Tremblay

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