FILE PHOTO: A resident eats in a room in the house for the older Christalain residence during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in the Brussels municipality of Jette, Belgium, April 13, 2020. REUTERS / Yves Herman / File Photo
June 9, 2021
By Chris Taylor
NEW YORK (Reuters) – When Lynda Steele’s father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few years ago, she faced an impossible choice.
As the host of her popular radio show, do you stay in Vancouver trying to do the nursing duties – or retire from your job and spend more time with your father in the last months of his life?
In the last week of May, she made this choice and signed the broadcast.
“I had times of great guilt, thinking of my father alone in a room, and wondering why his kids weren’t over,” says Steele. “Parking my career just seemed like the right thing to do.”
It’s a life-changing decision that more and more people are facing. As Baby Boomers, one of the greatest generations in US history, get older, their adult children often step in to help with care – and that comes at a cost.
According to a recent study by asset manager Fidelity Investments, 62% of nurses say they are occasionally overwhelmed by financial stress.
Look at the numbers, and it’s not hard to see why: Of those who retired to focus on caring – be it for their own children or their older parents – the average time off was from 20 months and 53% said the time period was longer than expected.
37% said they would earn less when they returned to work, representing an average pay cut of 40%.
“People don’t fully understand the toll this takes on other aspects of your life, like your career or your mental health,” said Meredith Stoddard, vice president of life events planning at Fidelity. “They are largely unprepared for the challenges and are not sure what they are getting into.”
Of course, since this is a family, it is still a decision that most people would make. Making sure your older parents are safe trumps any financial worries, as it was with Steele.
Caregivers should keep an eye on the associated victims and have a roadmap. Some advice from experts:
DO NOT TRY TO PAY FROM YOUR OWN BAG
“Make sure you are maximizing whatever benefits you are entitled to,” says Amy Goyer, AARP Family and Nursing Specialist and author of Juggling Life, Work and Caregiving. These include veteran benefits, long-term care insurance, and government services.
Another aspect is living. A reverse mortgage, home equity line of credit, or utility grant could help ease the financial burden.
Surprisingly, in the Fidelity study, 64% of working caregivers said they didn’t even ask their employer about special benefits or flexible options. A helpful workbook on all of these financial topics for caregivers: http://www.aarp.org/caregivermoney
ENCOURAGE ALL SIBLINGS TO CHIP IN
In particular, when a sibling leaves work to care for an older parent, the associated sacrifices are considerable. Not just lost income, but unrealized wage increases and promotions, health insurance, pension contributions (and future profits from those savings), and more. Therefore, other siblings should be aware of the full extent of this sacrifice and help financially as much as they can.
“Often the responsibility rests with one of the adult siblings, and that can cause a lot of family conflicts,” says Stoddard.
To understand the total cost of leaving the workforce, Fidelity has even put together a calculator: (https://myguidance.fidelity.com/ftgw/pna/public/lifeevents/caregiving/cost-of-leaving-workforce/calculator?urltype = https:% 2F% 2F)
“The worst thing is to be in the middle of the crisis and have to pay for everything,” says Goyer, who herself – also as a care expert – was driven into bankruptcy by looking after both parents and her sister.
These are things like establishing powers of attorney, healthcare, and finances. It means arranging the estate planning and volitional situations. It could mean adding your name to their savings or checking accounts so that you can edit their bills if that comes up. Goyer says, “Take care of everything you can before a crisis occurs.”
Lynda Steele plans to return to work at a later date – be it back on the radio or in something completely new. But when she shares her story publicly, she is amazed at how many others are dealing with exactly the same situation.
“If someone out there isn’t familiar with long-term care, chances are you will be at some point in your life,” says Steele. “It’s heartbreaking – and it feels like an ultramarathon.”
(Adapted from Aurora Ellis; follow us @ReutersMoney or at http://www.reuters.com/finance/personal-finance.)
This article originally appeared on www.oann.com