As parents age, the thought of how they will be cared for will start to cross your mind more and more. As their child you likely feel that you know what’s best for their care and you are who they would be more comfortable with. Caregiving is truly a labor of love and is a way many children give back to their parents after the years of raising they did for you. Yet, as you debate whether you want to be a primary caregiver for your parents versus helping them move into an assisted living community, there are some hidden expenses to consider as discussed in Sunrise Senior Living’s article, “The Hidden Costs of Caregiving”.
Caregiving, doing household chores, helping monitor medication, running errands etc. can become time-consuming as parents’ health declines. While you may start out only taking care of the small things, it can be easy for them to turn into bigger things that require more of your time. A lot of primary caregivers, according to Sunrise Senior Living, start to cut back on work hours so they can spend more time with their loved one(s). While this cut in wages may feel like an easy price to pay, the hidden side of it is that the cut hours can impact how your employer views you. While most employers are very understanding, this understanding can mean they recognize you are spread thin and they may become weary of promoting you. If you leave work temporarily this can also cause some difficulty in making up the lost time once you return.
While none of this is the end-all and may be something you are willing to sacrifice for the short-term, it is best to at least be aware of what could potentially be the effect of devoting more time to caregiving. It is wise to have a discussion with your employer so you can both be on the same page about what your time looks like.
Sunrise Senior Living also points out there are various small expenses that can add up. If your aging parent(s) move in with you, there can be higher food and utility costs among other small costs. If you are driving back and forth more there will be an increase in gas spending, and if you have a leased vehicle it will take up more of your miles. Of course, when it comes to family, these small costs can seem trivial, but again it is smart to be aware of these expenses that can add up.
A cost that isn’t financial will be less privacy and time spent with your family, i.e. spouse/partner and kids, and with your friends. If you parent(s) has moved in with you then your space becomes shared. So, it is important to be mindful of this and have discussions with your parents and family about how you want to balance your time. If you are traveling to your parent’s home frequently you will have less time to devote to your home, family, and your social life. Again, it isn’t the worse thing, but being cognizant can help you better prepare mentally for this shift.
Lastly, there is a cost to your own personal health. Caregiving requires a lot of the caregiver, so it is important to be aware of how caregiving is taking a toll mentally and physically. According to Sunrise Senior Living, family caregivers tend to have increased issues with digestive health, back pain and headaches, and other health related issues. This in turn can lead to an increase in your own personal health expenses. Of course, there is no blame to be laid regarding personal health and caregiving, it is just the nature of caregiving. Having self-check ins can be very important when you are a caregiver so you can maintain your own health so you can better care for those you are assisting.
While caregiving is a wonderful gift to parents, it can sometimes be better for both you and your parent(s) if they go to an assisted living facility. You will have more energy when you visit, and they can be surrounded by peers and care professionals. Of course, every family is different, and you want to consider the best approach for your family. Both caregiving and moving parents to assisted living can be great options, and the best way to figure that out is by talking with your parents and with your family. Parents never want to be a burden, but you also might feel better being the primary caregiver. Communication in determining the best approach is key.
Seeking counsel from an elder law attorney about yours and your parent’s situation may be wise as well so you can come up with a plan on how to approach the aging process, how to legally protect your parents and make sure your parents have the proper financial plan in place. Ensuring that both yours and your parents’ estate plans are in order and will work together smoothly is another key. Whether you are a primary care giver or your parents move to an assisted living facility, if the proper estate planning is not done for both you and your parents, you could be hit with surprises down the road regarding your authority over their care or their assets. If they pass away you also will want to know how an inheritance may affect your estate and have a plan in place for how it will pass, so as to lessen the overwhelming tasks that come in the wake of a death.
Together, we plan for life® and together we take care of you and your family.