Thursday, April 7, 2011

Can You Afford to Be a Caregiver?

Dallas Morning News business columnist Pamela Yip warns that the costs add up quickly, particularly if the caregiver does not plan ahead. According to a director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute quoted in the article, caregivers on average spend more than $5,500 annually in out-of-pocket expenses. If they live far away, it's about $8,700 because of additional transportation and food.

As the loved one's health declines, some employed caregivers drop to part-time or retire early. This could have lasting ramifications.

"People have to think about it because it cuts back their own lifetime wealth," Sandra Timmerman, the MetLife MMI director said.

The article offers the following expert advice to avoid such a situation.

Get a Good Read on Your Parents Financial Situation
This can be tough, particularly if your mother and father have always kept their finances close to the vest. You might start by discussing your own finances and then explain that you want to be sure your parents are prepared if something were to happen to them. Get details on how much they own and how much they owe and if they have adequate medical coverage that will pay for long-term care.

Obtain a Power of Attorney
It's important that you or a trusted relative or friend of the family have a parent sign a financial power of attorney that allows you to be part of their financial decision-making initially and then assume their finances when either or both are incapacitated.

Know What Insurance Will and Will Not Cover
It's particularly important that you understand what Medicare and Medicaid, as well as Medi-Cal here in The Golden State, pays for and what it doesn't. You'll need to know this to determine what type of long-term care you and your parents can afford.

Here also is where adult day health care can be a lifesaver for caregivers still working or unable to afford quality long-term care for their loved one. Centers such as our George G. Glenner Alzheimer's Family Centers provide a safe, engaging environment in which those with dementia can stay for up to a full day while the caregiver continues to work. Rates vary, but financial assistance can come from a variety of sources, including Medicare and Medi-Cal and the Veterans Administration if the dementia patient served in the armed forces. To learn more, go to

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