Care for Your Aging Parents and Avoid the Stress
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Helping care for an aging parent takes a mental and financial toll on women and their families. Here’s how to relieve some of the stress of caring for your parents.

About 14 million older Americans are dependent upon the care of others. Often, those caregivers are their wives or daughters.

In fact, about a quarter of women between the ages of 45 and 64 — and 1 in 8 of those between 35 and 44 — are caring for an elderly parent or a family member with special needs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey. Many of these women are also caring for their children.

Aside from the physical and emotional toll of caregiving, the financial impact of caregiving can be significant. In fact, 14 percent of caregivers have to cut back on their work hours or take a demotion, while 6 percent leave the workforce completely. 

But caring for an aging family member doesn’t have to be mentally, physically, and financially overwhelming. Here are steps to consider when becoming a caregiver

First, Ask For Help

So what can you do to relieve the financial and mental stress of caring for an elderly parent? First and foremost, ask for help.

“A lot of women have trouble asking for help, but no one can do this job on their own,” says David Rae, a Los Angeles-based Certified Financial Planner and president and founder of DRM Wealth Management LLC. “If you don’t ask for help, people will just assume you’ve got it handled.”

Rae says that many women who don’t ask for help may opt for less-demanding jobs at work, which can have a negative impact on the family budget and your own retirement savings goals. In addition, some women may choose to leave the workforce entirely, which can be problematic in case they wish to eventually return to the workforce. 

But there are services and resources for caregiving, and understanding them is a key step to minimizing financial and mental stress. 

Where to Turn To

Help from your spouse, siblings, or even your teenage or adult children may not be enough. Consider these four resources when in need of additional help:

The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging is a federally mandated network of agencies that can help you find elder services in your area. Area Agencies on Aging can also connect you with the National Family Caregiver Support Program, which provides support to family caregivers of people ages 60 and over.

More than 1.5 million veterans and their spouses are eligible for assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs to help pay for long-term care. The VA has its own assisted living centers and nursing homes but may also pay for in-home care.

Medicaid’s Cash and Counseling program offers direct payments to caregivers, including children of Medicaid-eligible parents. The program is not available in all states, so call your local Medicaid office to check eligibility. 

As a caregiver, if you pay more than half of a relative’s support costs for food, housing, transportation, and medical needs, you may be able to claim that relative as a dependent, In addition, you may qualify for other breaks, including tax credits for caregiving. These tax credits will reduce the amount of tax paid, not just reduce the amount of taxable income.

Plan Ahead and Avoid the Sandwich Squeeze

Ultimately, planning is the key to ensuring financial peace of mind. If you’re a member of the sandwich generation — the group stuck between caring for their parents and raising kids — your own children are likely in their teens and getting ready for college. 

Rae tells his clients to plan on spending between $10,000 and $25,000 a year on college. Welcoming your parent into your house and helping pay for their prescriptions, food, transportation, and other needs can add $1,000 or more per month to the family budget

As uncomfortable as discussing finances with your aging parents might be, it’s important.

“A lot of families don’t like to talk about money, but you need to know if Mom has long-term insurance, any savings, and any retirement income, like Social Security, or if she’s going to be broke at 75,” Rae says. “The sooner you know, the better.”

While you may not have a cubicle or office, being a caregiver is a job nonetheless. Learn more about what you can do to help create and sustain a healthy work-life balance. 

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