The so-called “sandwich generation” is being slammed with the responsibilities of their aging family members while balancing their own careers and family responsibilities. The juggling of these responsibilities isn't a new problem.
Attempting to simultaneously caring for aging parents and raising – or still supporting – their own children place physical, emotional, and even financial pressure on the caregiver and their family. For many families, the crisis management they are subjected to have many consequences.
Lack of Planning Creates Family Crisis
Texas Tech University professor Charlene Kalenkoski has studied this problem. Many people would find it challenging to imagine refusing to care for a family member. Be it their aging parent, or even an aunt or uncle, when they need help, most families will try to find a way to provide the care they require. However, the study says it’s essential to understand the toll such caregiving will have on them before agreeing to take it on this responsibility.
“Americans are not planning well for retirement – indeed, retirees often find themselves in informal caregiving roles they may not have prepared for,” said Kalenkoski, director of the Retirement Planning and Living Research Initiative in the Texas Tech University Department of Personal Financial Planning.
“The goal of this research is to examine how caregiving affects the well-being of retirees and show what the negative effects are. In particular, if people do not want to suffer a reduction in their own well-being that will occur once they take on a caregiving role, they may want to purchase long-term-care insurance or make other financial arrangements long before such care is needed.”
Many American Families Wake-Up Every Day as Caregivers
Families all over this country wake up every day knowing the full responsibility of their loved one falls on their shoulders. As we get older, the risk of needing help with activities-of-daily-living increases dramatically. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says when a person reaches the age of 65 they have a 7 in 10 chance of needing some type of long-term care service or support.
Often we think of Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia as the reason older people require long-term care services. By 2025, the number of people aged 65 and older with Alzheimer's disease should reach 7.1 million people, a 27% increase from the 5.6 million age 65 and older in 2019.
However, people require long-term care for many reasons, not just dementia. People require care due to an illness, accident, or the impact of aging.
Many people fail to advance plan for the financial costs and burdens that come from longevity. The problem is long-term care needs often don't hit the radar screen until it is too late. When there is no advance plan the family goes into crisis management. Communication with family members always helps reduce some of the stress.
“People need to talk to their relatives early and often about what sort of informal care they expect when they age, because people often have unmet expectations,” Kalenkoski said. “They also may want to inform their children that they do not want to take on a heavy caregiving load with respect to their grandchildren.”
Those to whom the caregiving role falls need to understand how it affects their well-being so that, if they choose, they can plan to arrange for other types of care.
“People need to be informed about other options besides informal caregiving, such as Long-Term Care Insurance. Waiting and seeing what happens – an approach taken by many – is probably not wise,” Kalenkoski said. “Society seems to think that because retirees are not working, they should not experience a reduction in well-being when they give care. However, this research shows that this is not the case.”
Long-Term Care Insurance is Working for America
The American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance (AALTCI), a national consumer education and advocacy group, says those with Long-Term Care policies are receiving huge benefits. In 2019 alone, just the top insurance companies paid over $11 Billion in benefits helping American families take care of their loved ones. Most claims start with care at home, which allows people to delay or avoid a nursing home facility. It also reduces the burdens placed on family members.
“There is one thing that really stands out when I speak with family members as I assist them with a claim. They tell me they have been given the gift of time. They always say their parent’s Long-Term Care policy allowed them the time just to be family. Yes, they also talk about the money which allows for a choice of quality care, but it is all about family,” said Matt McCann, who has spent over 20 years as a specialist in this area.
To avoid this crisis on family members, you need to have a concrete set of plans. To ease the stress and burden otherwise placed on family members, you should have an understanding of how aging will impact you, your family, as well as savings and lifestyle.
If you wait until a problem exists, you will have fewer choices. Your only options will be using your family as caregivers or paying for care, which significantly impacts assets and lifestyle. Neither of these options is fair to your family or yourself.
“There are many affordable options available to consumers, especially when they plan in their 40s and 50s. Today’s Long-Term Care Insurance is both very affordable and rate stable. Shared benefits for spouses provide flexibility. Forty-five states offer special partnership plans which provide additional asset protection. Most plans provide professional case management which eases the burden on loved ones. Asset based plans provide both a long-term care benefit as well as a death benefit. This is really a key part of retirement planning,” McCann said.
Other Planning Tools Helpful
Planning is more than just Long-Term Care Insurance. Be sure to have a power of attorney in place. A power of attorney gives a named family member or friend the ability to step in and make decisions regarding your health when you are unable to do so.
A medical power-of-attorney can also express your wishes on how to extend life … or not. It gives doctors and hospitals the ability to discuss your private health situation with a named person, so they can help make decisions if you are not able to do so.
A power-of-attorney for finances allows a person to act on your behalf with financial decisions when you are unable to do so. They are separate documents that you should put in place well before retirement.
The sandwich generation, your family, deserves better. However, research shows failing to plan has significant consequences.
Prepare Your Family and Finances with Long-Term Care Insurance
LTC NEWS offers several resources to start your research on long-term care planning. First, find the cost of long-term care services where you live. You should also find the availability of tax incentives, partnership plans, and more: Click here to review the LTC NEWS cost of care calculator.
There are many other resources available on LTC NEWS. Find those by clicking here.
Experts suggest planning before your health changes substantially. You can take advantage of lower premiums and good health discounts when you are in your 40s or 50s. No matter your age, your health allows you to plan. Also remember premiums are based, in part, by your age and health at the time of application.
Find a qualified Long-Term Care Insurance specialist to help you in this process. Click here to find a trusted expert.