Generations ago, it was accepted that elderly parents would be cared for by their adult children, with women (aka “the homemakers”) handling most of the physical and emotional burden. This was also a time when siblings and members of the extended family lived in close proximity, ready to step in when needed.
But times have changed, and families are rarely in the same state, let alone the same ZIP code. And women, although still bearing most of the caregiving burden (66%, according to Caregiving in the U.S.), in many cases are also employed outside the home.
Add to that the rising cost of assistance provided by professionals (estimated at $43,000 to $70,000 annually for eight hours a day of home health care alone) and it’s no surprise that the cost of caregiving can keep both the cared-for and the care-provider awake at night.
According to an AARP study, about 42 million people in the U.S. have provided care to an adult family member at some point. But this unpaid assistance comes at a cost — physical, emotional and financial. For example:
- Studies show that female caregivers are more likely than males to suffer from high stress due to caregiving (35% vs. 25%).
- 70% of working caregivers suffer work-related difficulties due to their dual caregiving roles.
- 23% of family caregivers who have been providing care for five years or more report their health is fair or poor.
- 12% percent of caregivers reduced work hours or took a less demanding job, while 9% gave up work entirely, compared with 3% that took an early retirement.
If you anticipate providing care for a relative sometime in the future—or if you want to avoid being a burden to other family members—here are steps you can take.
Learn the facts about long-term care. Long-term care fall into three categories: skilled, intermediate and custodial. These types of services and procedures typically aren’t covered by a person’s medical insurance, but would be paid for under a long-term care insurance policy.
Skilled care (generally provided by nurses or professional therapists) helps you recover from a serious illness or injury with daily treatments or therapy. Intermediate care is similar, but is not needed on a daily basis. Custodial care, however, is not focused on recovery but on providing assistance with daily activities: bathing, eating, dressing and other personal and medical care, and can range from in-home care provided two or three days a week, to 24-hour nursing home care.
Discuss your financial situation with an advisor. If you can afford the cost of long-term care without significantly impacting your assets, you may opt to forgo purchasing coverage. And for those with assets (not including your home) of less than $80,000 if you’re married or $30,000 if you’re single, you may not be able to afford the premiums.
If you fall somewhere in between, long-term care insurance can be money well spent, safeguarding your economic health while it covers the cost of treatment for your physical well-being.
Consider purchasing long-term care insurance. Here are two numbers worth noting: 70% and 40%. According to statistics, there is a 70% chance that you’ll need some type of long-term care after age 65: either in-home or in a nursing home. And if you think that’s something you only need to worry about once you hit your “golden years,” know that 40 percent of patients receiving long-term care are under age 65, either as a result of an accident or because of a debilitating illness.
For example, real-estate executive Barry Shore was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome at 55, and, after a year, was still unable to walk or work. Fortunately, his long-term care insurance more than covered his in-home care as well as the other therapy not covered by his medical insurance. You can view his story here.
Keep in mind that policy premiums are lower the younger you are when your purchase coverage, and generally don’t increase with age, unless an insurance company raises them for a whole class of policyholders.
For more information, review the long-term care insurance section on the LIFE website. Then discuss your options with your insurance advisor.