Jeff Foxworthy is famous for his comedy sketch about “You Might be a Redneck If” jokes. One of my favorites is, “If you own a homemade fur coat, you might be a redneck!” Sometimes people don’t realize what they truly are. We don’t see it as a joking matter, but for more than 30 million Americans they may be a caregiver and not even recognize it.
Being a caregiver often starts slowly with helping someone with their “honey do” list of shopping, errands, or fixing things around the house that they simply are not able to do safely. For example, you may help an older parent who really should not be climbing a ladder to change a light bulb or clean out gutters. It could also be accompanying them to doctor’s appointments to make sure all of the relevant issues are covered and the diagnosis and treatment plan is clearly understood. While we are happy to help our friends and family as caregiving progresses, it can exact a heavy price on the caregiver’s family and health. Many reports show that when people act as caregivers for their family, they are much more likely to eat unhealthy, get less sleep and experience more stress. The caregivers are torn between caring for themselves and their own family in addition to a loved one.
Many people step into a caregiving role because their loved one does not have the financial ability to pay for professional help. While the initial burden may not be as heavy as it could be a few days a week and a couple hours each day, as the loved one requires more and more care, the burden becomes heavier. Additionally, we often treat our loved ones much differently than we would a stranger or professional. For example, a parent may not take the advice of a daughter with the same respect as a professional because they are still in the parent/child role. Even though the daughter’s advice may be the same as a professional, many people are more willing to listen and take action when the advice comes from the professional.
70% of Americans age 65 or older will require long term care services at some point in their lifetime. Having a plan in place that clearly explains who will provide care, where that care should take place, and most importantly how will the care be paid for is a critical part of good financial planning. Long Term Care Insurance can play a part in that plan but doesn’t have to if there are other resources or family available to step in if needed.
Some say there are 3 kinds of people; people receiving care, people providing care, and people who need care in the future. Which one are you and do you have a plan?