American families are in crisis as aging parents in larger numbers require long-term care services. Often, due to a lack of advance planning and resources, adult children become caregivers for Mom or Dad.
It seems the conversation about long-term care is all over TV, radio and social media.
Recently on NBC’s “Today Show” Maria Shriver said current caregivers face exhaustion as they attempt to not only be caregivers but deal with their normal lives.
Shriver explained that 17 million people in the United States are being a caregiver for just a family member suffering from Alzheimer’s. People require long-term care services due to illnesses, accidents or the impact of aging. This means the total number of family caregivers is much larger.
“People are trying to balance work and balance caregiving,” Shriver explained, “It is financially debilitating and emotionally, physically and spiritually.”
Many surveys confirm what Shriver, and others, have noted the impact of long-term care and how it affects family caregivers in addition to savings. One recent survey says 45% of unpaid caregivers feel that their physical health suffered due to the caregiver duties they were providing. In addition, 41% of the female unpaid caregivers reported that caregiving has placed tremendous pressure on their own financial situation.
Actor Rob Lowe, who recently wrote a column in USA TODAY said that family caregivers face mental, physical and emotional stress which is “overwhelming”.
“They are doing truly selfless work by serving as unpaid family caregivers for a loved one. About 25 percent of those caregivers are millennials, who often feel forced to choose between their careers and caring for their aging parents and grandparents,” Lowe writes.
Lowe reminds us that long-term care is not just end-of-life care.
“Millions of older adults rely on it for help with day-to-day activities -- everything from getting dressed in the morning to cleaning the house to running the most basic errands. The majority of that care occurs in the home, and who doesn't want to say in their home?” he writes.
Often, people think long-term care is about nursing homes. This is the farthest from the truth.
Jesse Slome, the Director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, a national consumer advocacy and trade group, said most claims for those with Long-Term Care Insurance start with care at home.
He says many people mistakenly think of Long-Term Care Insurance as care in a skilled nursing home. That isn’t the case for those with insurance or for those without. If someone doesn’t have Long-Term Care Insurance either their family will step in and provide care or they will pay, out-of-pocket, for care at home. Sometimes both. This puts both financial pressure on the family in addition to the stress on family members.
Shriver says most families have not had the talk about long-term care. They are not aware of the costs of paid care or the impact being a caregiver would have on them and their careers and families and normal daily responsibilities.
If you are already a caregiver then you need to be aware of the impact it has on your life and health.
“Caregivers need to take care of themselves first,” Shriver said.
A recent poll conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows how being a caregiver is actually impacting the health of the caregiver. Many of them just neglect their own needs.
There is a large amount of stress that is placed on the shoulders of family caregivers. Too often, this is ignored when planning for longevity. Shriver points to these “symptoms” that impact caregivers. Be it anger, anxiety, or other health and mental issues, an advance plan can reduce the stress otherwise placed when taking care of Mom or Dad in a long-term care situation.
Shriver suggests having a family discussion ahead of any needed caregiving responsibilities are required. This can make responsibilities clear between siblings.
Many experts say the best plan is to take the caregiving responsibility out of the hands of loved ones. Long-Term Care Insurance provides your choice of quality care either in your own home or in a facility like assisted living, memory care or a nursing home. This allows time for the family to actually be family.
Unfortunately, too many people are in denial. They don’t think long-term care will ever happen to them. Some people think their children could easily be caregivers. Both points are wrong. Growing longevity means a much higher risk of needing help with normal activities-of-daily-living or supervision due to cognitive decline.
These policies are very affordable for most people, especially if purchased prior to retirement when they enjoy better health. Experts say the best time is in your 40s or 50s. In 45 states special insurance policies provide additional asset protection. These are Long-Term Care Partnership plans.
Find the cost of long-term care services in your state, along with available partnership plans and tax incentives, by finding your state on the LTC NEWS MAP. Click here to find your state.
It is always best to seek the help of a qualified Long-Term Care Insurance specialist. General insurance agents and financial advisors generally lack the needed skills or experience required with these products. LTC NEWS can help you connect with a specialist – just click here.
Reduce the burdens on your family as you protect your retirement accounts from the financial costs and stresses of long-term care. For many American families, Long-Term Care Insurance is an easy and affordable solution. For those already in a caregiving situation, the best advice is to take care of yourself first.