Posted On Dec 12, 2016
Eldercare is a costly reality for millions of Americans. Here’s how the issue effects you .
I thought my mom was ageless. At 75, she looked a decade younger. When my son was born, she wholeheartedly embraced being a grandmother. A year-and-a-half later, Mom was diagnosed with a progressive form of Parkinson’s disease. Seemingly overnight, she suffered a broken hip, had several strokes, and started to show signs of dementia. Suddenly, I was caregiver for both my mother and my son.
With 75 million adult children caring for parents in the US, families need to understand how to manage this role. According to Barbara McVicker, author of Before Things Fall Apart: Preparing to Care for Mom and Dad and creator of its companion PBS television special, being a caregiver means having an uncomfortable conversation with loved ones, to ensure that their wishes are known.
“It’s not unusual for caregivers to feel overwhelmed and isolated,” says McVicker who cared for her parents for 10 years while raising children and working a full-time job. Advance planning and due diligence goes a long way in helping both caregivers and family members.
Geriatric Care Manager/Consultant: “With two-thirds of caregivers living in a different location and many working full-time, it makes sense to hire an eldercare professional,” says McVicker. “These are social workers and nurses who help families navigate the system by determining the level of care needed, offering recommendations, and aiding with on-going care management.” Costs range from $85–$225 an hour (caremanager.org).
In-Home: If your parent is able to live at home safely but requires help with daily tasks, you can hire a non-skilled companion at a national average hourly fee of $18, or a certified nursing assistant (CNA) at a rate of $19 (sometimes more if through an agency).
Assisted Living: Although it’s hard to move your parent out of his or her home, conditions may require greater care. “Once my mom got acclimated to assisted living, it was the best four years of her life and mine,” says McVicker. “They not only got her diabetes under control, but she benefited from regular exercise and socialization.” Average monthly assisted living costs in 2012 were $3,300.
Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC): What if your 78-year-old mother has Alzheimer’s, but your 80-year-old father is healthy? McVicker cites CCRCs (which include independent, assisted, and skilled nursing care) as viable options. Since these facilities require pre-payment, often $250,000 or more, McVicker recommends first consulting with a financial adviser.
Skilled Nursing Facility: “Considering a nursing home doesn’t mean you don’t care about your family member,” McVicker says. “Often, people need a level of care beyond what their family, or even assisted living, can offer.” The average national monthly cost for a skilled nursing home, sometimes covered by Medicaid, is $6,083 for double occupancy rooms (per person), and $6,753 for a single occupancy room.
Self-Care: Leeza Gibbons, cohost of the America Now news program, warns against caregivers neglecting their own health. “Depression is a common by-product of caregivers,” says Gibbons, whose mother had Alzheimer’s. Her non-profit, Leeza’s Place, offers support programs. Consider asking for help, or enlisting an adult day services center, offered free via community groups or paid (on average, $61 an hour) via assisted living facilities.
Finances: “For families that have questions about Medicare, Medicaid, long-term care insurance, or reverse mortgages,” McVicker says, “it’s a good idea to consult with an eldercare financial planner or attorney.” They can help with estates, wills, and power-of-attorney decisions as well.” Fees vary (naela.org).