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Financial costs of aging and caregiving – the hidden and not-so-hidden aspects of care

July 29th, 2014

I was happy to come across a post in the New York Times which discusses the loss of retirement income for caregivers.  It was wonderful to learn that a Representative of New York State is calling upon lawmakers to address these losses by introducing legislation.   We must not forget that the “little” expenses add up over time and the caregiver’s pocketbook will be effected today AND in the future!  The post states, “A MetLife study in 2011, based on data from the national Health and Retirement Study, estimated that men who reduced work hours to provide care for parents received almost $38,000 less in Social Security benefits. If they stopped working, they gave up more than $144,000.  The damage from cutting back on work was worse for women: they lost more than $64,000 in Social Security benefits. Leaving the work force to care for a parent cost them more than $131,000 in addition to the lost wages (and, sometimes, pension contributions) themselves.”  (original article newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/07/25/addressing-caregivers-loss-of-retirement-income/? )

The following is an excerpt from my book which encourages early FAMILY discussions and planning for aging as a TEAM for this exact reason.  Aging impacts more than just the senior!

Your father asks you to stop by the grocery store on your way over to pick up a few items.  You have already made him a casserole and some soup to freeze but you are happy to help.  You fill up your gas tank to travel the 35 miles to his home and head out.  Two days later you drive to your father’s house again because the television wasn’t working and he did not want to call the provider to take a look.  The following week your father mentions that he is having a difficult time opening up a can of soup because his arthritis is affecting his grip on the manual can opener so you stop by WalMart, buy an electric can opener and make the 70 mile round trip to bring him the new can opener. Your wife has come with you and she mentions on the drive home that your father’s bathroom is dirty.  You have to admit that you didn’t really notice but your wife says that there is no way she is going to bring the kids for a visit if the home is always this way.    So, next week you hire a cleaning crew and since your dad refuses to pay for it, you foot the bill.  All of these things individually do not add up to much.  But, if you take the gas money, groceries, can opener and now the cleaning crew into account, you have spent about $200 this month!  How long can you keep this up?

 Aging is not cheap.  As our bodies evolve, we find ourselves requiring assistance in many ways and often, this assistance costs money.  Sure our families can and do provide lots of help for us to offset the out of pocket expenses, but how much do we want to rely on our children to clean our home, help us bathe, buy our medication and groceries and clean our homes?  If you add on the cost of housing changes such as relocating to an assisted or full care residence, or recurrent home health assistance the cost of aging can be astronomical.  Typically, the costs creep up on us in small doses as you saw in the aforementioned story. However, there are many circumstances in which the cost of living for a senior goes from stable to exorbitant in an instant.  How will this impact the senior?  How will this impact the family financially now and in the long term?

We must work together as a FAMILY TEAM to prepare for the financial impact on the FAMILY UNIT in the short and long term.  Measures can be taken to ensure that all generations are included in the financial plan.  Seek out legal advice, financial planning, and then put your wishes in a POWER OF ATTORNEY and LIVING WILL to ensure that this plan is followed.


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