Caring for the caregiver

When you were young, your parents were the ones to care for you, and as you grew up they helped you care for your growing family. It’s difficult to think about what may happen to them as they grow older and can no longer care for themselves. 

Article highlights

  • Know the costs of care
  • Account for your retirement
  • Discuss roles with family

But the unpredictability of a healthcare event is something that affects the entire family, especially when it involves a need for long-term care. 

From memory loss and cognitive impairments to long-term disabilities, there may be a need for professional care outside of what a family can provide. A family must identify the challenges they face and plan for long-term care before a need arises. With the proper groundwork, they’ll have resources to help shoulder that support for loved ones if they need it.


While difficult choices still need to be made, planning early for long-term care expenses can help ease some of that burden for caregivers.

Get a handle on costs

Potential caregivers may be prepared for the emotional challenges that come with the role. But they might be surprised by the financial impact.

Long-term care can be incredibly costly, ranging from about $4,100 a month in assisted living facility to nearly $7,470 a month in a nursing home.1 To compare average costs state by state, visit What Care Costs .

Unfortunately, Medicare does not typically cover these services over an extended period of time. Therefore, families have to figure out a way to pay for it or provide the care themselves. By planning early, a retirement strategy can help you and your family prepare for some of these long-term care expenses which may help provide more flexibility and control over facilities and services.

Without a long-term care plan in place, healthcare expenses could affect the savings retirees have built up, and put the burden on their families. It’s estimated that those who face an unexpected care event may spend their savings two to three times faster than planned.2 

Balance career, life, and caregiving

While ensuring the well-being of a loved one is important, there is a financial impact when trading in a career for caregiving. It’s estimated that female caregivers in their 50s who stopped working lost up to $324,000 on average in income and Social Security benefits.3 

While your first instinct may be to jump into a full-time caregiver role and do all you can to help, take a moment to ensure you've considered your options. Is it feasible to go part-time instead of quitting? If so, individuals could continue to vest in their 401(k) plan, and might even be able to hold on to some benefits. For those who must leave their job, continually contributing to an IRA could help ensure they’re putting something away for their own retirement. 

Another thing to consider, the average patient may only need care for three years.4 So before deciding to quit a job or personally pay for care, it’s always important to weigh the larger effects on individual career and future savings goals.

These decisions affect the savings of both you and your loved ones, and are not ones that need to be made alone. A financial advisor can help you evaluate solutions that can help support your family.

Planning as a family

It can be stressful juggling the role of caregiver with other work and life responsibilities, and a lack of planning can affect the entire family. Open, frank discussions with your family and the people you are responsible for may help lessen the financial burden on any one person. Make sure that everyone understands and agrees to their caregiving role. If one person is providing direct care to an ailing parent, can your siblings pitch in financially or vice versa? It may be helpful for your family to join a support group and talk with others who understand the challenges you’re facing and can help offer solutions.

Learn more about ways to help you and your family shoulder the responsibility of planning for long-term care costs.

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1 “Costs of Care.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed March 09, 2017.

2 “2016 Lincoln Financial Group Cost of Care Survey.” LTCG. February 2017.

3 “Half of Working Women Have Taken Leave to Care for Family.” LIMRA. September 20, 2016.

4 “How Much Care Will You Need?” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed March 09, 2017.