Caring for Older Loved Ones: The Financial & Lifestyle Impact
According to the US Census Bureau, the older population in the United States is growing.1 When coupled with statistics from a study conducted by HealthView Services, those numbers may be cause for concern. The HealthView Services study showed that medical costs for seniors are on the rise, and the average 65-year-old couple who starts receiving Social Security benefits at age 65 can expect 68 percent of their benefits to be consumed by healthcare expenses.2 For those of us who are intimately involved with providing care for older loved ones, this is a serious concern. The figures show the potential impact on the finances and lifestyle of caregivers, forcing some of us to wonder how we will cope.
Financial Impact of Caring for Older Adults
Many of the boomer and pre-boomer generations believed in planning for the future. They have set aside a significant nest egg to supplement their funds for healthcare costs and everyday living. Even with the benefit of their forethought, caregivers may still have to spend money. Medicare is not likely to cover everything as the Kaiser study suggests, forcing seniors to take on gap insurance. Pharmaceuticals are more expensive than ever. Seniors may need home improvements such as ramps and bathroom modifications to make their quality of life better. They may want special furnishings such as a bed with rails or lift chairs. Costs can escalate quickly.
One escalating cost may end up being the amount spent on gasoline. When adult children of aging seniors act as caregivers to their parents, they may spend a lot of time traveling. They may be asked to run errands like picking up groceries and medicine or simply to come over and watch sports. It may be that the travel becomes too taxing financially and physically, and it comes time to consider a different solution.
Just as there exists a phenomenon of adult children moving in with their parents to save money, many seniors may choose to move in with their adult children. It may be difficult for seniors to take care of themselves even if they are financially able. The only alternative may be a costly assisted living facility.
For extended families with close ties, having more adults in the house can be a benefit to everyone. Aside from reducing housing costs, a younger couple with children may come to love the free babysitting and the kids will certainly love the adoration and gifts that come from seeing a grandparent frequently.
However, the lifestyle changes that come with parents living with their adult children may be challenging. Busy adults will find themselves with less free time as they become on-call service providers for their older parents and children. The grandparents may relish finding themselves in the familiar role of ruling the roost; yet, previously independent adults may bristle at once again having to take orders from their parents.
Planning to Care for Older Adults
The challenges presented by caring for an older loved one may be mitigated by some planning and good communication.
- Older adults can discuss their plans and lifestyle goals with a financial advisor. It’s never too late to discuss making plans to care for an older adult or plans to adjust to health care issues that may arise.
- If you are a younger person, you can talk with a financial advisor about how to include caring for your parents later in life.
- There are options to find a way to meet financial obligations even if you haven’t included them in your savings plan.
- If you are preparing to share space with your parents or grandparents, sit down and talk about how things will work out.
One report by AARP shows that it is becoming more and more common for adults to be taking care of their parents. Now, nearly 17 percent of adults care for someone who is 50 or older.3 If you are involved in the care of your parents you aren’t alone. Seek out resources and information and find out how others have handled the impact on their lives.
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