While a significant part of Estate Planning is preparing for what your needs may be as you age or if you get sick, many of us fail to consider what the implications will be if one of our loved ones eventually need care. Alongside family strain and fatigue, often comes unexpected, and therefore unplanned for, financial, career, and emotional ramifications.
According to the 2018 Northwestern Mutual C.A.R.E. (Costs, Accountabilities, Realities, Expectations) Study, "Three in ten Americans identify as current/past caregivers and more than 1 in 5 (22%) expect to become caregivers in the future. However, even though half of American caregivers (53%) say that the care event was planned, many remain unprepared for the financial implications which appear to be increasing year over year". Overall, the study found that seventy percent caregivers reduced their own living expenses to cover caregiving costs; yet nearly half of future caregivers have taken no steps to financially prepare themselves.
According to the Merril Lynch/Age Wave study, 68% of family caregivers are also financial contributors. It's not cheap. The popular money advisor, The Motley Fool estimates caregivers spend an average of $7,000 per year of their own money caring for elders - $12,000 if it's long distance. These money matters gurus say that amount doubles when you're caring for someone with dementia. Part of this may simply be due to lack of knowledge.
While many caregivers are older Americans, significant weight is also carried by the so-called "Sandwich Generation" - those adults who are parents caring for children in their home while also acting as caregivers to an elder. Much of this population includes Gen Xers, and even Millennials. By and large, the statistics suggest these folks don't know what they are in for. In compiling the C.A.R.E. study, Northwestern Mutual found, "Gen X caregivers report having 'basic, minimal, or no knowledge' of Medicare (76%), Social Security (81%), and long-term care insurance (82%). This is higher than the general population which itself is also low, with 74% reporting 'basic, minimal, or no knowledge' of Medicare, 68% for Social Security, and 78% for long-term care insurance". This lack of knowledge can lead to being neither financially prepared for their own, nor their elders' eventual care. In fact, 53% percent of the overall caregiving population, and 59% of Gen Xers, reported having to choose between spending money to care for themselves or spending it on the person for whom they were providing care.
In addition to the time and money caregivers spend tending to their loved ones, the need of caregivers to adjust their professional lives can often impact their careers. Twenty-one percent of caregivers told Northwestern Mutual they had to reduce their work hours, with twenty percent reporting having reduced their hours.
PHYSICAL AND EMOTIONAL TOLL
In addition to the effects on career and finances, caregiving takes a physical and emotional toll on many. The C.A.R.E study participants reported the following either "often" or "all the time":
•· 62% reported tiredness
•· 42% reported anxiety
•· 35% reported fear
•· 24% reported isolation
•· 12% reported resentment
PREPARATION IS CRITICAL
Though the challenges for caregivers - and those needing care - are many, you can still lay the groundwork for greater success and minimize the impact. Learning about Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and Long-Term Care - long before you need them is a great way to start. Consider perusing Attorney Dowling's blog series on Medicaid Eligibility as a comprehensive primer. Part One can be found HERE.
No matter what your unique circumstances, having a professional familiar with your individual needs is critical, for both you and those for whom you may become a caregiver. Here at Solutions Law Group LLC, we offer frequent, free, no-obligation seminars to help you learn how to navigate the Eldercare and Estate Planning landscape. To learn more, visit our Seminars page HERE.