As we have seen caregiving is an expensive undertaking, especially when an individual needs several years of care. When a person’s total cost of care ranges between $200,000 and $600,000, there are unintended consequences when the money runs out.
Reality sets in when a wife is impoverished after her husband’s care has depleted all their savings. Families are heartbroken when they are forced to move a parent out of a fancy, beautiful residential facility because the money has run out.
Here are some ideas to create value and stretch the caregiving budget:
1. Start early: For many seniors, the need for assistance begins gradually. Perhaps your loved one is a bit more forgetful, repeats the same stories, or is a little less comfortable driving. For others, there is a dramatic change resulting from a stroke, a fall, or other health event.
Recruit friends and family to rally around your loved one. Great care is often provided by family and friends spending loving time with a parent.
There are many free and low cost resources in the community. Between senior centers and church programs designed for our seniors, there are options to help mom and dad be more social and to move around more. Try to become more involved with their lives so that you can monitor them for signs of trouble.
2. Begin planning: Recently, I heard Chris Brannon, a partner with Brannon + Black law firm specializing in elder law (www.georgia-elderlaw.com) the importance of pre-planning in his legal practice. More and more, he is working with families early to implement basic legal documents such as a will and financial and healthcare power of attorneys. There are other planning services available for legal and financial concerns that allow caregiving families to maximize their resources over time.
3. Keep them home and in the community: We can find a lot of value by keeping our parents in their homes (or our homes) for as long as possible. According to most of the statistics from the Atlanta Regional Commission and AARP that I have seen, the vast majority of seniors want to stay in their homes for the rest of their lives. They want to continue living with a spouse and remain in their chosen communities. There are many excellent options for helping our loved ones live in their homes. Check out Adult Day Health Care and Home Care. Adult Day offers significant care for your loved one during the day allowing the caregiver to attend to other responsibilities such as work and children. The average hourly cost for adult day might range from $7-10 per hour during a 8 hourwork day. Combining adult day with home care allows for significant coverage for less than other services.
These services are easily ramped up and down. Focus on what your loved one wants and needs. If care services begin early enough, attending a day center for two days a week might easily meet thecare needs. Over time, the services can be increased as they are needed or decreased when they are not.
4. Modify the home: There are many home modifications that can be made to make life easier on our loved ones. By making a few modifications to the home, it is easier for our loved ones to live in their homes for longer period of time. While seeking out a contractor who understands universal design might seem expensive, it is likely a fraction of the cost of moving to residential setting.
5. Seek out funding options: For many families, there comes a realization that their parents may not have much money left in the bank. Or they find that they have spent the vast majority of the savings taking care of a spouse, and now there is very little left to take care of the remaining parent. There are some funding options available from Alzheimer’s Association, the LMK Foundation (www.lmkfoundation.org) in the Atlanta area, and county Senior Services organizations (they often have government funds available to help caregivers). While Medicare does not fund long-term care services, Medicaid and the Veteran’s Administration do. Both programs will fund services to keep a senior out of institutional care.
Caring for a parent can be difficult and stressful. It can be expensive, but with a little effort, we can manage the expenses to provide our loved ones with the best possible in care, in their homes, and with their families.