For better or worse, millions of retirees will receive long-term care services – not from an assisted living facility or home care agency, but from their adult children. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving and the AARP, 65.7 million informal and family caregivers provide care to someone ill or disabled in the United States, and the vast majority of people who need that care are elderly.
While family caregiving is often a less-than-ideal situation brought about by a lack of assets or an inability to qualify for long term care coverage, it doesn’t have to be. It can take a toll on caregiver and recipient alike, but with proper planning, clients, their parents and their children can preserve their assets and make the most of the situation.
Reasons and expectations
Why do some people put their kids into a caregiving role?
“For most clients, it’s a matter of not having enough liquid assets or not having bought any insurance,” says Karen Lee, CFP with Karen Lee & Associates. “Most parents don’t want to be a burden on their kids, and they’re usually hoping the situation won’t happen to them.”
Still, some seniors prefer to receive care from family, in some cases preserving modest assets for their caregivers’ inheritance. And, while most adult children provide care out of a sense of obligation, it’s actually a convenient arrangement for some.
“Some adult children, usually daughters living nearby, don’t have to dramatically take away from their lives to provide care,” says Lee.
Regardless of their reasons, senior clients all too often fail to make their expectations known.
“It’s an uncomfortable conversation, similar to writing wills or buying disability insurance, and people just don’t want to think it could happen to them,” says Lee.
Costs to consider
Expenses will invariably be lower for family caregivers than professionals, but there are still costs to consider. Parents with modest assets may need help with food, housing and other regular expenses – items that would be covered in an assisted living stay.
Whether they age in place or move in with their kids, senior clients may also need renovations to make their homes livable. Seemingly simple installations such as grab bars, ramps and stair lifts can cost thousands, and an in-law suite could be a five-figure remodel.
These costs still pale in comparison to years of assisted living or full-time in-home care, but for clients weighing the pros and cons of putting their parents up in a retirement community, they should certainly be considered.
Part-time in-home care is also a potential expense – a necessity, even, in situations where one person is providing around-the-clock care.
“If there are means to do it, I would absolutely recommend it,” says Pearce Landry-Wegener, wealth management advisor with Summit Place Financial. “Otherwise the caregiver has no time to themselves.”