Paying for long-term care can have a major financial impact on families. It’s a big reason why each year more than 65 million Americans provide long-term care to an adult family member. Yet the costs to those family caregivers are still steep.
A recent study found that nearly half of family caregivers spend more than $5,000 a year on out-of-pocket caregiving expenses, and about a third spend more than $10,000. If a loved one requires care in an assisted living or nursing facility, those costs can skyrocket and quickly erase a lifetime of savings.
The true cost of long-term care, however, goes far beyond just the dollars and cents of out-of-pocket costs. The indirect costs can have a drastic impact on a caregiver’s physical and emotional health, career and even their family relationships. This is something I learned firsthand in my experience as a caregiver.
Many caregivers say that you don’t plan on being a caregiver—it often happens to you.
Many caregivers say that you don’t plan on being a caregiver—it often happens to you. That’s how I found myself caring for my mother. We didn’t have a plan in place, and since I was the only one of my siblings still living in the same state, I became her caregiver.
A delicate balance of priorities
The next seven years required a delicate balance of responsibilities, as I continued to work full-time and my husband and I raised our three teenage children. Inevitably priorities changed and sacrifices had to be made to provide my mom with the care that she needed, which impacted all areas of our lives. While I thankfully had a strong support system to help get me through it all, my experience convinced me that long-term care insurance was the right solution for my family so that my children don’t have to go through a similar situation.
But my story is not unique. As many who have cared for a loved one can tell you, this is a common experience for family caregivers. Unfortunately, most families only explore long-term care options when care is needed, which magnifies the impacts of caregiving. Consider that for working caregivers:
• 60% say their duties have had a negative impact on their jobs
• 68% make work accommodations
• 64% arrive late, left early and/or took time off in the middle of the day
• 17% took a leave of absence
• 9% reduced hours or took a less demanding job
• 5% turn down a promotion
• Those who leave the workforce to provide care lose an average of more than $300,000 in income and benefits.
The ripple effect of caregiving can also quickly reach other areas of a caregiver’s life, including health and family relationships. When you’re so focused on caring for a loved one, it’s easy to forget to care for yourself. Sometimes there just may not be enough time in the day, so it’s easy to understand why about one in five family caregivers believes their health has gotten worse as a result of their responsibilities.
Additionally, between 40% and 70% of family caregivers of older adults have significant symptoms of depression. Other common health problems of family caregivers include increased anxiety, heart disease, hypertension, sleep problems and fatigue.
Between 40% and 70% of family caregivers of older adults have significant symptoms of depression.
It changes the family dynamic
When you’re caring for a parent, having less time for yourself also means there is less time for your family. Caregiving changes family dynamics, which can strain your relationship with your spouse and children. It can also create stress and conflict with siblings when it comes to topics like financial support and sharing the caregiving responsibilities.
If you’ve watched the Real Life Stories videos from Life Happens like the Mollicone family, you understand that going through a long-term care situation will always be an emotional and often trying experience for families. Planning ahead with solutions like long-term care insurance can lessen the impact by protecting a family’s finances, providing choices for where care is received, supplementing family caregiving, and helping a family to maintain their lifestyles and careers. It can also provide one with peace of mind knowing their care needs will be met without requiring difficult decisions or unthinkable sacrifices from their family.
It’s Long-Term Care Awareness Month so, I encourage you to spend some time considering your family’s future. Take the first steps in learning about long-term care planning and find out how solutions like long-term care insurance can protect both you and your family.