Caring for the caregiver

The role of caregiver may come with financial and emotional challenges. Make sure you have a plan to maintain financial security so you can be there to support your loved ones when they need it.

Caregiving rates in the U.S. have been on the rise for decades, and today about one in seven American adults (almost 15%) provides care for another adult.1 Additionally, an estimated 11 million unpaid caregivers belong to the “sandwich generation,” which means they have responsibility for another adult while also caring for children who live in their homes.2

Given the growing demand for caregivers in the U.S., you may want to consider the following ways to reduce the financial strain of caregiving.

Get a handle on costs

Long-term care can be incredibly costly, ranging from about $4,051 a month in an assisted living facility to approximately $8,517 for a private room in a nursing home.3 To prepare for the price of long-term care, calculate the average costs for care in your state.

Medicare and Medicaid federal health insurance programs may offer some assistance for individuals in need of long-term care. However, Medicare, the government health insurance program for the elderly, does not cover caregiving services over an extended period of time.

Medicaid, the federal program for lower-income Americans, covers nursing homes only after a person’s assets are depleted. Therefore, it often falls to the family to figure out a way to pay for or provide care themselves.

To defray some costs, consider looking into local programs like Meals on Wheels or an adult daycare. Your local Area Agency on the Aging can direct you to programs — often free or subsidized — that are available for older adults in your area.

Balance caregiving and your career

Approximately 3 in 5 caregivers have a paying job, in addition to unpaid caregiving duties.4 If you’re currently employed, consider finding out what kinds of benefits your company offers. Some may help with referrals for counseling, as well as legal and financial assistance. An employer also may allow flexible schedules to help caregivers balance multiple obligations.

Even with an employer’s support, some caregivers still find it difficult to manage multiple priorities. According to a study conducted by AARP, more than half of family caregivers will have to take time off from their jobs, reduce their hours, or quit altogether.5

There are many factors to consider before making the decision to leave work and take on a full-time caregiver role. Is it feasible to go part-time instead of quitting? If so, you may be able to continue vesting in your 401(k) plan, and you may even be able to hold on to some benefits. Is unpaid leave an option? Knowing that you have a job to return to may take some worry off of your shoulders while you care for your loved ones.

If you must leave your job, try contributing to an IRA to ensure that you’re still putting something away for retirement.

Get your family involved

Involving your family in caregiving decisions may help lessen the responsibility for any one person. Consider trying to distribute caregiving duties evenly between multiple family members. For example, if you provide direct care for an ailing parent, your siblings may be able to contribute financially.

Caregiving may be stressful at times, but it can often be seen as very meaningful by those providing care.6 In performing this important duty, make sure to consider all the possibilities for keeping your financial security on track. Get started today by learning more about how to fund long-term care.

1 “Adult Caregiving Often Seen As Very Meaningful by Those Who Do It.” Pew Research Center. November 8, 2018. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/11/08/adult-caregiving-often-seen-as-very-meaningful-by-those-who-do-it/

2 “Burning the Candle at Both Ends: Sandwich Generation Caregiving in the U.S.” National Alliance for Caregiving and Caring Across Generations. November 2019. https://www.caregiving.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/NAC-CAG_SandwichCaregiving_Report_Digital-Nov-26-2019.pdf

3 “Cost of Care Survey 2019.” Genworth Financial. https://www.genworth.com/aging-and-you/finances/cost-of-care.html

4 “Surprising Out-of-Pocket Costs for Caregivers.” AARP. October 1, 2019. https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/financial-legal/info-2019/out-of-pocket-costs.html

5 Ibid.

6 “Adult Caregiving Often Seen As Very Meaningful by Those Who Do It.” Pew Research Center. November 8, 2018. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/11/08/adult-caregiving-often-seen-as-very-meaningful-by-those-who-do-it/