American families are in crisis as aging parents in more significant 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.
Family Caregivers Face Many Challenges
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 a caregiver for just a family member who has 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."
"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 poll says 45% of unpaid caregivers feel that their physical health suffered due to the caregiver duties they were providing. In addition, 41% of the unpaid female caregivers reported that caregiving had placed tremendous pressure on their own financial situation.
Actor Rob Lowe, who is now starring on Fox's "Austin 911," 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.”Rob Lowe, Actor
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 stay in their home?”Rob Lowe
Most Long-Term Care Services are Not in Nursing Homes
Often, people think long-term care is about nursing homes. The fact is this the farthest thing 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 people without insurance. 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 pressures on the family in addition to the stress on family members.
Have You Had the "Talk" About Long-Term Care with Your Family?
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.”Maria Shriver
Caregiving is Hard on Family Members
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 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 is required. This can make responsibilities clear between siblings.
Long-Term Care Insurance Gives You Access to Your Choice of Care
Many experts say the best plan is to take the caregiving responsibility out of the hands of loved ones. Long-Term Care Insurance provides you with your choice of quality care either in your own home or in a facility like assisted living, memory care, or a nursing home. With a Long-Term Care Insurance policy, your family has the time for the family.
Unfortunately, too many people are in denial. They don’t think long-term care will ever happen to them. Some people believe 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.
Long-Term Care Insurance is Affordable
These policies are very affordable for most people, especially if purchased before 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.
Start your research by finding the current and future cost of long-term care services where you live ... or plan on living once you retire. The LTC NEWS cost of care calculator is an excellent research tool. Find the cost of long-term care services along with available partnership plans and tax incentives. Get your information by clicking here.
Seek Help from a Qualified Long-Term Care Insurance Expert
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.
About the Author
Linda is a freelance writer interested in retirement planning, health and aging.
Contributor since October 31st, 2017