There are over 40 million unpaid caregivers for adults ages 65 and older in the United States, and 84% of retirees plan to rely on family members if and when they need Long-Term Care. With so many Americans currently acting as caregivers, and many of us facing the expectation of caregiving responsibility, understanding steps to ease caregiver burden and burnout is vital.
One aspect of aging and caregiving too few individuals consider, or plan for, is estate planning and care documentation. While most of us know what a will is and understand the importance of this document, less than half of Americans have a will – often resulting in the estate going to probate and the state determining how assets will be allocated.. Having an advance directive in place is also crucial and can help prevent caregiver burden. These documents allow you to document wishes for finances and the care you’ll receive and take the stressful and, at times, combative, guesswork out of caregiving. A financial power of attorney can ease the financial hardship of caregiving. With this document, caregivers can manage financial transactions for an aging loved one, which can be crucial in affording care late in life. For a more in depth review of advance care planning and documents you may want in place, check out our blog, Advance Care Planning—Needs and Resources. Plus, Aging at Home Association Members can now take advantage of discounted will and trust creation through our partnership with Trust & Will.
Insurance policies are an effective way to manage and mitigate the financial burden of aging and of caring for an aging loved one. There are policies available which provide regular payments or offer paid services such as adult daycare or home care – offsetting the costs of care and lessening the toll on family caregivers. On average, family caregivers spend 24 hours every week proving care; while the average spouse spends 45 hours each week. Insurance policies can offer unpaid caregivers a physical, emotional, and financial break which can, in turn, allow them to better support those loved ones. Also check out our post on options for long-term care policies, Long-Term and Short-Term and Hybrid Plans, Oh My!
One of the first steps caregivers can take is to initiate conversations with aging loved ones. Understand what documents are in place outlining care and financial wishes, discuss desires for care and affording care with age. From these discussions you can work to finalize and get in place documents, insurance, and safeguards in the best interest of both caregiver and care recipient. Caring for an aging loved one can be complex and full of uncertainty, but through preparation and conversation it can be a beautiful and rewarding experience.