R&R For Family Caregivers

When we consult with clients about long-term care expense planning we always ask what they want to accomplish by exploring insurance.

Most of our clients have children. Not being a burden to their kids is almost always on the list of objectives that clients detail.

It was one of the goals that my parents cited when they called 27 years ago to tell me they had bought long-term care insurance.

I remember every detail of the discussion including telling my parents that if they needed care I would take care of them. I had absolutely no idea what that would entail. I just knew that if they needed some help there would be no question about providing whatever assistance they required.

Consider the experience of a daughter, Claire, and her experience caring for her widowed mother, Elizabeth.

Claire and Elizabeth lived in the same town about 15 minutes from one another. Claire was fully prepared to care for Elizabeth. In fact, Claire asked Elizabeth to move in with her and her husband.

Claire understood and accepted that she would be providing hands-on care and thought that she was physically and emotionally able to help with the care Elizabeth required including bathing, dressing and toileting.

Kids really do want to take care of parents

What Claire and Elizabeth did not understand was the enormity of caregiving. Shortly after Elizabeth moved in with Claire she was diagnosed with dementia and required 24-hour supervision.

There are 168 hours in a week. Consider a week in Claire’s life as caregiver for Elizabeth. Claire worked full-time outside the home and formal, paid care was required for the 40 hours a week Claire spent at her job plus commuting time which totaled 44 hours.

In Phoenix where Claire lives the median cost of 44 hours of non-medical home care is $57,200 per year and covers 26% of the 168 hours in a week that care is required.

There are now fewer hours that Claire must provide care, yet 124 hours a week or on average 18 hours a day, remain Claire’s responsibility.

At this point Claire is dedicating 100% of her nonworking hours to providing supervision or hands-on care. This level of caregiving challenges the rest of the family and makes it impossible for Claire to accomplish anything else.

She has no time for relaxation, relationships, self-care or housekeeping. Other family members must help with grocery shopping, laundry and other household tasks.

Claire has little time to spend with her grandchildren or get her hair done. The situation creates tremendous stress and Claire has now developed hypertension, anxiety and depression.

There are 168 hours in a week

It has become clear that additional paid care is necessary. An additional 44 hours a week of paid care is added to the schedule. This doubles the cost of paid care to over $114,000 per year.

Elizabeth’s savings are dwindling quickly and Claire now realizes that she will need to contribute to the cost of Elizabeth’s care or quit her job to be able to substitute for some of the paid care.

The additional paid care relieves things for Claire. Yet she continues as the primary caregiver for 11 hours per day. Unfortunately, these include Claire’s sleeping hours as Elizabeth needs supervision if awake.

Claire is working 44 hours a week, providing the hands-on care for 11 hours a day often during sleeping hours and the family is spending more than $114,000 a year for paid care.

Kids really do want to take care of aging parents. They just do not realize how challenging it can be until they are in the throes of the caring experience.

We have worked with many families where siblings have joined together to pay for long-term care insurance for parents. Kids will do what is necessary to provide care for their parents, but at what cost to their own health and financial security?

Kids don’t understand the enormity of caregiving

Consider the findings of a 2011 research study conducted by MetLife’s Mature Market Institute. It reported a quarter of adult children, primarily baby boomers, provide personal care or financial assistance for paid care for a parent.

The estimated total of lost wages, pension and Social Security benefits of these caregivers is nearly $3 trillion. The cost impact on individual female caregivers averages $324,000. For men it is $284,000.

Depending on adult children to provide care can have a pretty significant impact on their future financial security.

Geez, am I lucky and very, very grateful that my parents had the insight to buy long-term care insurance!

In her article, “Respite Care: How to Ease the Stress of Caregiving,” Kelly Burch details the importance of rest and relaxation for family caregivers along with a number of options for respite care.