Fifty to a hundred years ago, elderly loved ones were taken care of by their family. This care was mainly end-of-life care provided by a daughter or a daughter-in-law. In those days, most women did not work outside their homes. Most long-term health care didn't last that long.
Things have changed over the years, and the consequences of long-term health care have increased dramatically. We live longer and require more extensive long-term health care for much more extended periods of time.
Women have been in the workforce for more than 100 years, but there has been a significant change since 1950. An estimated 79,457,808 women are working in the United States, representing 47.4% of the total labor force. About 70% of women work outside the home.
Most Women Want to Work Outside the Home
In fact, most women want to work outside the home, according to Gallop. Given a choice between working or staying home to take care of the house and family, 56% of women told the pollster that they would rather work than staying home.
Given these societal changes, it isn't usually easy for family members to become caregivers. Not only do women seem to enjoy their careers, but most also depend on the income from their employment. It isn't realistic for older adults who think their daughter or daughter-in-law can drop everything and become caregivers. Nor are family members prepared or trained to be a caregiver. It is difficult at best to juggle a career and family with the duties of being a caregiver.
Yet, with about half of all adults reaching age 65 needing some long-term health care before they die, the demands on families create a crisis. Families quickly discover that health insurance and Medicare (including supplements) will not pay for most long-term health care expenses.
Medicaid is not an answer either. That government program requires the care recipient to have little or no income and assets to qualify. Long-Term Care Insurance will pay for long-term care, but you cannot purchase a policy when a person 'needs it' as these insurance policies are medically underwritten. Most people obtain LTC Insurance in their 50s, well before their health declines and needs care.
LTC Costs Increasing Nationwide
Professional long-term health care, both in-home care and facility care, is expensive. These costs are rising quickly due to increasing demand and high labor costs - Cost of Care Calculator - Choose Your State | LTC News.
By default, family members often become caregivers, and the consequences affect everyone. The physical and emotional demands of being a caregiver can be challenging.
"Being a caregiver is a unique type of stress, so it's important to recognize what is stressful and use all available resources to minimize that stress," says Dr. Justin Allen, M.D.
Dr. Allen is the Medical Director at Tembo Health. He is a Board-Certified emergency physician with years of experience caring for seniors and caregivers whose stress and anxiety associated with caregiving have often resulted in their challenges and issues.
Speaking on a webinar hosted by Belmont Village Senior Living, Dr. Allen said stress and burn-out are two areas of concern for caregivers.
"The biggest thing I see again and again is caregivers putting so much responsibility on themselves that they ignore their own health. Remember, you can't be helpful to someone else if you are ill or in distress yourself," Dr. Allen explained.
Stress is Dangerous
Stress is a physiological response to a stressor built into our D.N.A. – the "fight or flight" reactions enabled by the physical changes caused by an adrenaline rush. The perpetual state of stress without a stressor is called anxiety, keeping us in a constant heightened state of awareness.
Humans are not mentally or physically built to handle prolonged anxiety, which can have several detrimental effects. Stress is linked to the top ten causes of death, including heart disease, cancer, accidents, stroke, C.O.P.D., Alzheimer's, diabetes, pneumonia, kidney disease, and even COVID-19.
One in three caregivers has no background in health care, and 60% of caregivers maintain a full-time job outside of their caregiver role. Many family members are unaware of how tough being a caregiver can be until they start into their role.
The care recipient is also how stressful and physically demanding caregiving can be and how much a burden it is for their loved one to be a caregiver. The more time goes by, the more dependent the care recipient becomes on their loved one.
Rapidly changing family dynamics, new and unexpected financial burdens, and feelings of loneliness, isolation, and jealousy are all ongoing causes of stress for caregivers.
Health Problems Due to Stress
There are significant physical and mental indicators of caregiver stress, which include:
Changes in sleep patterns
Becoming easily irritated or angry
Feeling sad, tired, overwhelmed, and/or worried
Losing interest in favorite activities
Caregivers must manage stress for their own well-being and that of the care recipient. However, there are several ways caregivers can work to reduce their own stress levels:
Being proactive and organized when it comes to planning, talking with loved ones and professionals about expectations, creating a set schedule, and having backup care can help reduce stress.
Don't shoulder all the burden: find community resources and support groups and consider assisted living options.
Seek out experts and ask questions, including a list of questions for doctors.
Use new technologies, such as telemedicine, whenever possible.
Ask other family members to share the caregiving responsibility when feeling overwhelmed.
Utilize "Respite Care," which often amounts to short stays at a senior living community appropriate for their care needs. These short respite stays can allow caregivers the help and relief they need when they are overwhelmed. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) can also be helpful when taking leave is needed.
Know your boundaries and set priorities for your own health and well-being.
Relocation Stress Syndrome
Being cared for can also result in stress. Relocation Stress Syndrome, for example, is common when a person moves from one environment to another. If the care recipient is moving into the home of one of their children, this change can be challenging for them. It is also hard for the caregiver's family, who now share their home with a grandparent.
Factor in changes that the care recipient face can often make it harder for the caregiver to help. These changes include loss of physical mobility, cognitive decline, and loss of social connections, which affect the care recipient.
For a caregiver, understanding these forces may help, and seeking out resources to assist can take some of the burden and stress off the caregiver.
"Stress is a huge component of our everyday lives and impacts us all, so it's important to recognize moments that can be stressful as caregivers and be sure to prioritize our own health and reach out to the many resources available so that we can provide the care needed for our loved ones," adds Dr. Allen.
The challenges long-term health care has on family and finances are primary reasons many people prepare for aging before they retire. According to research, most people don't want to place this stress and burden on their families.
LTC Insurance Provides Access to Quality Care Choices
Professional caregivers and long-term care facilities, like assisted living, provide quality care and give loved ones the time to be family instead of caregivers. Plus, the financial benefits from an LTC policy safeguard income and assets as well as preserve lifestyle and legacy.
Avoiding the crisis before the crisis starts will make aging and future declining health easier for everyone. Some people think they will never experience the need for long-term health care since they are in good health today.
The fact is longevity is one of the primary reasons people need help with daily living activities or supervision due to dementia. You don't need poor health to need long-term care services. Frailty from old age is one of many reasons people need care. We will see declines in our health, body, and mind as we get older. While you can be any age when you need care, the risk increases as you get older. Being prepared before these changes take place allows you to protect income and assets and reduce the stress and anxiety otherwise placed on those you love.
Most people obtain coverage in their 50s. Not everyone needs Long-Term Care Insurance, but everyone needs a plan.
About the Author
Linda is a former journalist who now enjoys writing about topics she is interested in so she “can keep her mind active and engaged”.
Contributor since December 11th, 2017
Do you think you are exempt from aging and declining health in the future? Probably not, and even if you are in excellent health today, all that means is you will live longer, and longevity is a risk for needing long-term health care.
Almost every survey completed shows most Americans do not want to be a burden on their families as they get older. Yet, few people have taken any steps to address the costs and burdens of aging.
One of the reasons many people give for failing to plan for long-term health care is they think they will never need care or that Long-Term Care Insurance is too expensive. Of course, both are not true.
For most people, depending on their age and health, Long-Term Care Insurance can be a very affordable way to prepare. Plus, nobody is immune to the consequences of aging and declining health. Aging happens.
The time to plan is before you retire, and most people who do are in their 50s.
Seek Professional Planning Help
Experts recommend seeking the help of a qualified and experienced Long-Term Care Insurance specialist to help you find the right coverage. A specialist will match your age, health, and family history with the right coverage at the right price.
Long-term care is a very specialized area, and few insurance agents and financial advisors have the expertise. Find a specialist who represents the top companies as premiums can vary over 100% between insurance companies. Leading specialists will often have over 500 clients with Long-Term Care Insurance.
A specialist will save you money, and you will have peace of mind knowing they are making the appropriate recommendations - Work With a Specialist | LTC News.
Planning Tools and Resources Available on LTC NEWS
Planning for the future is never easy, but long-term health care planning can be very complicated and comes with many emotions. Getting the right tools and resources will make the process much easier.
One of the goals is to reduce the stress and anxiety usually placed on your family at the time of crisis. LTC NEWS can be beneficial in providing you with important information for you to consider.
LTC NEWS has put in place several resources, including:
The LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator will show you the current and future cost of long-term health care services where you live. Plus, each state has vital state-specific information you should know - Cost of Care Calculator - Choose Your State | LTC News
The Ultimate Long-Term Care Guide is an outstanding read to help you get a good overview of the topic area.
Compare the major insurance companies that offer Long-Term Care Insurance products here - Top Insurers for Long-Term Care Insurance | LTC News.
A detailed tax guide that includes available tax incentives can be found by reviewing the Long-Term Care Tax Benefits Guide.
Find all the resources on LTC NEWS - Resources for Long-Term Care Planning | LTC News.
Finding Quality Care for Mom or Dad
If your family is already in crisis and you need to find help for mom or dad, LTC NEWS can help. We have put together several comprehensive guides to help you in your process.
Start by reading our four guides -
If your loved one is lucky enough to own a Long-Term Care Insurance policy, be sure they use it. Sometimes families wait, thinking they can save the benefits for a rainy day. Waiting on using available Long-Term Care Insurance benefits is not a wise idea.
Get Help in Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim
Many insurance companies have issued Long-Term Care Insurance policies over the years. Filing a claim can sometimes be complicated unless you know what to do or get expert help and assistance.
Don't allow the claim process to stop you from using the benefits available in an LTC policy. Quality care obtained early will help provide a better quality of life and reduce the risk of a deep decline and facility care.
If you need help in starting the process of a Long-Term Care Insurance claim, LTC NEWS can help. LTC NEWS provides free assistance with no obligation to help you or a loved one complete the claims process with a Long-Term Care Insurance policy. We have teamed up with Amada Senior Care, who will do all the work - free with no obligation.
Get help finding quality caregivers or long-term care facilities and get recommendations for a proper care plan, whether a person has a policy. - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim | LTC News.
Benefits of Reverse Mortgages
Today's reverse mortgages for those aged 62 and older could be an ideal resource to fund a Long-Term Care Insurance policy OR even provide money to pay for care if you, or a loved one, already needs help and assistance. You might be eligible at younger ages as well.
Some people have much of their savings invested in their homes. With today's reverse mortgages, you can find ways to fund care solutions, care itself, and even help with cash flow during your retirement.
Learn more by asking questions to an expert. LTC NEWS columnist and host of the TV Show "62 Who Knew" will answer your questions regarding caregiving, aging, health, retirement planning, long-term care, and reverse mortgages.
- Just "Ask Mike." - Reverse Mortgages | LTC News.
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You can write a story or ongoing column for LTC NEWS. You can write about many topics, including aging, caregiving, health, lifestyle, retirement planning, and long-term care, to name a few.
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