Are you caring for your aging parents? If so, then you already know how heavy a burden it can be, emotionally and financially. But even if your parents don’t seem to need your assistance now, there’s a growing likelihood they will in the years to come, and the more prepared you are for your new role as caregiver, the better.
For that reason we recommend this story recently featured on the NBC News website. It’s called “How to Care for Your Aged Parents – Without Going Broke.” NBC quotes data from the Pew Research Center that shows how the need for care rises dramatically as a parent ages. When parents are 65 years old, says the Pew data, only about 15 percent of adult children report that their folks need their help. But a decade later, when parents are 75, that figure jumps to 33 percent – and the trend line keeps rising after that. The population of those in their mid-80’s is going up fast, and that means lots of caregiving (and some potentially heavy financial and emotional burdens) for their kids.
If you compare the percentage of adult children providing personal care and/or financial support to parents today versus 15 years ago, the number has tripled, rising to an estimated 10 million Americans age 50 and older who are caring for parents. That’s according to data from MetLife. We were surprised to read that fully one-quarter of adult children are their parents’ caregivers, a burden that falls disproportionately on women. If that number seems high, you’ll be amazed at this statistic: the total dollar value of the informal care provided by family and friends for older Americans (again according to MetLife) comes to $522 billion annually – an amount greater that total Medicaid spending! If you’re a female caring for your aging parents, on average you will forfeit a lifetime total of over $324,000 in lost wages and Social Security benefits due to the impact of caregiving on your regular employment.
In trying to provide helpful information for boomers who are also their parents’ caregivers, this particular NBC News article focuses primarily on housing options. (The website promises future installments of this series, so we’ll check back to see what else they cover in future reports.) The information is helpful, as far as it goes, although we should point out that housing is only one piece – albeit a very important piece, it’s true – of a much more complex retirement puzzle. As you sit down with your Mom and/or your Dad, you can be armed with some useful information from this article that can help them make vitally important choices for the kind of housing in which they’ll feel most secure and independent in the years ahead.
If you’ve listened to our AgingOptions radio program or read our blog articles, you know that we’ve spoken and written a lot about “aging in place” – remaining in one’s own home as long as possible as one grows older. And no wonder: surveys repeatedly show an overwhelming majority of seniors want to do just that. (NBC News quotes a survey by American College that said 83 percent of seniors favor aging in place.) The big problem is that the homes many seniors occupy are just not suitable places to grow older. Harvard University did a 2014 study in which they identified five must-have features for a home to be considered appropriate for aging in place: a no-step-entry; single-floor living; extra wide doorways and halls; easily accessible electrical switches and controls; and lever-style doors and faucet handles.
What portion of the housing stock in the United States has all five? Just one percent. No wonder the dream of aging in place may be elusive. It can be extremely expensing preparing a home to accommodate an aging senior. What’s more, no matter what the parent might say, if aging in place means living alone in an oversized house as their physical and mental problems increase, it’s probably not the best choice.
The NBC News story talks a bit about the value of downsizing, and includes a link to a helpful calculator that can show you just how much you or your parents can save. In recommending downsizing, NBC News states that “There’s no other one move that will make such a big difference in your retirement fortunes.” Not only will an aging adult or couple save on taxes, upkeep and other costs by moving into a smaller place, but they will also benefit from socking some of the equity from the sale of a larger home into retirement investments which can augment Social Security. It’s a win-win scenario.
So the NBC News piece may help provide some food for thought, even though it’s light on several important details. But in order to put the housing choice into perspective, and to get a better handle on some of the other issues that go along with being a caregiver, we strongly suggest you and your parent (or parents) plan now to attend an AgingOptions LifePlanning Seminar. There you’ll discover, in just a few a short hours, how your housing choice is deeply interconnected with the other vital aspects of retirement: a financial plan, a legal plan, a medical plan, even a family plan to make sure your loved ones are aware of and supportive of your wishes in retirement. And here’s the really good news: weaving together these elements into one comprehensive plan for your retirement does not have to be complicated – not if you work with the experts at AgingOptions to develop your own LifePlan.
Why not invest a little time and find out more? LifePlanning Seminars take place at locations throughout the region – and there’s no cost or obligation. For dates, times and locations of upcoming seminars, click here. Then register online, or call us and we’ll assist you by phone. There’s no better way to get the information you need than at an AgingOptions LifePlanning Seminar.
(originally reported at www.nbcnews.com)