Posted by Paul F. Lynch
If you’re one of the more than 50 million Americans caring for another adult, you may feel overwhelmed by the emotional challenges, lifestyle changes, and financial responsibilities of your role. Whether you’re caring for aging parents, your spouse or another loved one, assessing your financial situation and understanding your options will ease the worry and help you take control. Here are four important steps to take:
- Do a financial overview.
With guidance from an accountant or financial planner, review your loved one’s finances, including bills, expenses, assets, life insurance policies, investment and retirement accounts, annuities, stock certificates, and Social Security benefits and payments. Develop a system for paying bills and keeping records, and determine who in your family will manage these finances.
- Do a legal overview.
Legal affairs go hand in hand with a financial plan. Make sure your loved one has an up-to-date, signed will. The will should include the durable power of attorney for finances, which gives a designated person the authority to make financial decisions if your loved one cannot. Also make sure the will includes a health care proxy as well as other pertinent medical directives.
- Assess the situation
Make sure you have answers and action plans for the following important questions:
- Can your loved one afford to pay for day-to-day expenses?
- Are other family members able to contribute?
- Can you afford to stop working, reduce your hours, and/or help pay for costs?
- Will you need to bring in a visiting nurse or health care provider?
- Identify available benefits and resources
Every caregiver’s financial situation is different. Trying to locate the best resources for your specific needs can be confusing. The good news is there are plenty of local and national associations specializing in caregivers’ needs, as well as regional, state, and federal programs that provide financial, legal, and emotional guidance and assistance.
Here are some links as you begin to research helpful programs and services:
The National Council on Aging is a comprehensive resource for adult children caring for an aging parent or loved one. The website gives caregivers free access to information on benefits programs for seniors with limited income and resources. To date, the organization has helped more than 2,282,328 people find over $7.2 billion worth of annual benefits.
The Administration on Aging provides fact sheets on aging and links to outside resources for an assortment of caregiving issues, including financial planning, residential options, in-home services, case management, and the law.
Medicare is an all-purpose site with interactive tools for planning and paying for long-term care and choosing among drug plans. Includes searchable inspection results, good and bad, for the all the nation's skilled nursing facilities.
Medicaid provides comprehensive information and links to state Medicaid programs. Low-income seniors, disabled adults, and children with disabilities or chronic illnesses may be eligible for Medicaid assistance.
The National Alliance for Caregiving reviews more than 1,000 books, videos, web sites and links for caregivers.
The National Family Caregivers Association provides statistics, research and policy reports, tip sheets, first-person accounts, a newsletter and an exhaustive resource list.
Family Caregiving Toolbox is a "how-to" site by the National Family Caregivers Association with advice on time management, asking for help, navigating the health care maze, and communicating with insurance companies and hospitals.
The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys provides questions to ask lawyers about qualifications and areas of expertise, as well as a wide-ranging resource list for the elderly.
The Department of Veterans Affairs includes information on veterans' benefits ranging from health care to home loan guarantee services.
The Family Caregiver Alliance website provides information on publicly funded caregiver support programs in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Information is available on programs funded through the National Family Caregiver Support Program, Aged/Disabled Medicaid waivers, and state-funded programs that either have a caregiver-specific focus or include a family caregiving component in their service package.