More midlifers are caught in a juggling act of raising a family, working, and caring for aging family members, putting a strain on emotions and finances.
A survey by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and the National Alliance for Caregiving revealed that 44 million Americans--predominately women with a full-time job and children--are caring for someone older than age 50. More than half (57%) of survey respondents said they have had to go in late to work, leave early, or take days off to perform caregiving duties. And about 10% of respondents had to quit their jobs or take early retirement to care for a loved one.
More employers--government and business--are responsive to caregivers' needs, in part because of the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993. The legislation allows workers at companies with 50 or more employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year to care for a family member. In addition, some businesses offer access to elder care resources and referral benefits.
The financial consequences to the caregiver may include a decision to work part time, decline a promotion that requires longer hours, or pass up a training opportunity that requires travel, according to the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement. Other subtle consequences may be lost opportunities for compounded returns on 401(k) matching contributions, reductions in savings and investments, or inability to finance home improvements that boost resale value of the caregiver's home.
The Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement, based in Washington D.C., offers these tips:
- Develop a budget that helps you live in a way that protects you from financial crisis. Ask yourself whether small expenses you're paying for an adult outside of your household are preventing you from saving enough for your own retirement. Ask other family members to help with the expenses of the person you're caring for. Then beef up your own reserves: Keep track of all spending, start saving for retirement, and start investing--even a small amount--so your money can grow over time.
- If the person you're caring for is struggling to make ends meet, visit the National Council on Aging Web site at ncoa.org, which helps older individuals determine what kinds of government benefits they might be eligible for.
- Medicare recipients in need of financial help should visit the Web site for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at medicare.gov or call 800-MEDICARE.
- Check into medigap plans for medical costs not covered by Medicare. Call your state insurance commissioner for a list of medigap policies sold in your state. For insurance counseling, contact the nearest senior health insurance counseling programs (SHIP) by visiting Medicare.gov/contacts/static/allStateContacts.asp.
- Check into whether a reverse mortgage is right for the person you're caring for; it's a way for homeowners age 62 and older to borrow against the equity in their homes. Visit aarp.org/revmort for more information.
- Talk to your family members about the financial impact of being a caregiver. Ask them if you could be paid as an independent contractor for the care you are providing.
- Check out additional resources, such as the Eldercare Locator, BenefitsCheckUp, ElderWeb, National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers, and Family Caregiver Alliance.
Published July 31, 2007