“If you are nearing retirement, there is a very good chance that you are also or will be soon involved with eldercare,”says LHSFNA Management Co-Chairman Noel C. Borck.
Citing statistics, Borck states that forty-one percent of Boomers who have living parents are already caring for them. Of the rest, 37 percent expect to provide care in the not so distant future. Half of those are wondering how they are going to manage this task. On top of that, many are also dealing with children, some young, some adult.
“This is the ‘Sandwich Generation,’” says Borck, “squeezed from both sides of the family spectrum.”
Does eldercare responsibility mean not being able to save as much for retirement or not being able to retire at all? Whose needs should take precedence, and when choices are confronted, how will the feelings that follow – guilt, anger and disappointment – affect your life?
Whether involved with eldercare today or expecting to be later, you can make the situation less overwhelming, less costly and less emotionally charged.
Caring for parents now?
- Make sure your parents have filed or are receiving Social Security and Medicare benefits.
- You may be able to claim your parents as dependents. You may also qualify for additional tax relief. Find out about eligible expenses.
- Make sure they have legally designated someone who can make financial and medical decisions on their behalf should they become unable to do so. (You should have this in place for yourself as well.) This means someone with a durable power of attorneyfor finances and a durable power of attorney for health care. Know who that person is and in what secure area in the house – never in safety deposit boxes at a bank – these and all documents pertaining to finances and health are kept. If possible, get copies for your own safekeeping.
- Make sure they have living wills – also something that everyone, regardless of their age, should have – that stipulate which life-sustaining medical measures they do and do not want, like mechanical breathing devices, tube feeding or resuscitation.
- Make sure their affairs are in order. Estate laws can change. Wills should be reviewed every few years.
- If you live in another city or state, set up an emergency fund for yourself to cover travel expenses in case you have to make an unexpected visit.
- Check with your health and welfare fund to see if they a provide member assistance program (MAP) where members (and usually their families) can meet with a mental health professional. You will be able to discuss the impact of caregiving with a trained professional and come up with healthy ways to cope. If your plan does not have a MAP, but offers mental health benefits, you may be able to get assistance through a covered provider.
Caring for Parents in Your Future?
- Talk to them now about their financial situation so that all of you can plan for what is down the road.
- Whether the plan is for them to remain in their home or to move in with you or other relatives, find out costs for adapting a residence to accommodate mobility issues – a ramp or additional handrails, for example. Discuss in-home care and factors that may one day make it necessary for them to stop driving, like failing eyesight, poor reaction time and forgetfulness.
- Even if they say or you believe that it will never be necessary, look into assisted-care and nursing home facilities in the community where they expect to be. In the elcer demographic, circumstances can change suddenly. Before they have a need, be familiar with care options and cost.
- Look into long-term care insurance, which picks up where traditional health insurance and Medicare leave off. Long-term care can cover expenses like assistance with activities of daily living (bathing, eating and dressing), Alzheimer’s special care centers, nursing homes and hospice care. If necessary, consider splitting the cost among family members. Also, look into long-term care for yourself. Policies are less costly when purchased earlier.
- Even if they say or you believe that it will never be necessary, look into assisted-care and nursing home facilities in the community where they expect to be. In the elder demographic, circumstances can change suddenly. Before they have a need, be familiar with care options and costs.
- Find out if a Geriatric Care Manager – a health and human services specialist with experience in aging and eldercare issues – can be of assistance.
Family Obligations with Retirement
- When making down-the-road financial decisions for yourself, consider the possibility that your retirement – and, therefore, your retirement expenses – may include caring for your parents and adult children who have come home or need financial assistance.
- Your retirement savings are for your retirement. Use your parents’ assets to finance their care for as long as possible. Your children can take out college loans. Your financial needs come first. Say “no” if saying “yes” means less for your future.
- Educate yourself about your loved one’s condition. Information is empowering. Be open to technologies and ideas that promote your elder’s independence. Trust your instincts.
- Make time for yourself. Caregiving, whether hands-on or from afar, is a stressful job. It is essential that you and your family continue to eat healthy meals, exercise, get adequate sleep and relax. Go for walks. Work in your garden. Read a book. Turn off the phone. Accept help from others, and get help for yourself if it is needed.
- Grieve for your losses. And then allow yourself to dream new dreams.
Under the best of circumstances – that is, aging parents who understand they need or will need care and have the resources to pay for it – taking charge of mom and dad can be daunting and stressful. Planning will lessen the emotional and financial burdens.
“Keep in mind,” says Borck, “that one day you will be the elderly parent and your children will very likely be involved in caring for you. Steps you begin taking now will make this situation easier for them when that day arrives.”
[Janet Lubman Rathner]