Long-term care can have a huge impact affecting the finances, career, lifestyle, health, relationships and state of mind for thousands of caregivers across the United States, according to a recent study by Genworth Financial. These impacts can occur both over a short and longer period of time, with more than 43 percent of caregivers reporting that their loved one’s need for care lasted three or more years. Although one of the largest impacts is financial, taking care of a loved one may affect a number of other areas in a caregiver’s life.
According to the study, caregivers averaged 21 hours per week providing care for their loved ones. This amount of time inevitably results in less focus on careers, with at least 65 percent of caregivers missing time from work. This translates to working fewer hours, losing vacation time, missing career opportunities, repeated absences and tardiness, changing shifts or even loss of employment. For those caregivers who are able to retain their jobs, 53 percent of them will lose some degree of income due to the demands of providing care.
Less time for work also translates into less time for life in general. According to the study, 53 percent of caregivers lost a significant amount of time away from their personal lives. For many people, personal time is important for maintaining happiness, contentment and overall well-being. Without it, one may experience depression and high levels of stress, potential damage to personal health, family relationships and spousal or partner relationships.
When life gets stressful, most people find relief in little indulgences. Caregivers, however, often do not allow themselves the freedom to enjoy small luxuries out of obligation for their care-related responsibilities. According to the study, 58 percent of caregivers reported spending less than before or cutting back on discretionary spending for eating out, purchasing new clothes, or buying a new car. Social events may often be declined (like weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, holidays) and technology upgrades to phones and computers become a much lower priority. Some folks even cut back on necessities like food and groceries. Care recipients are not excluded from these sacrifices, with 77 percent reporting that they too have cut back on their own discretionary spending in many areas of their lives.
Long-term care can be costly both emotionally and financially, with Genworth research showing that caregivers often find themselves paying an average of $8,000 of their own money to provide care for their loved ones. Fortunately, there are ways to employ new financial strategies to effectively manage potential negative impacts.
The study suggests that the most important thing for families to do is to broach the topic of long-term care early and start planning thoroughly – in advance. Anticipating and planning long-term care can prove financial value. Caregivers estimate that if they had planned long-term arrangements early on, they could have saved an average of nearly $11,000.
However, many people purposely avoid taking the steps to early planning. Caregivers and care recipients often don’t want to admit care may be needed, they may not want to talk about it, or they hope the issue will resolve itself. And when many do get around to confronting the issue, they find that they didn’t know where to start.
The study reports that only 23 percent of caregivers actually made plans for a long-term care event in the family. However, with a 70 percent chance of people over 65 needing some form of long-term care according to government statistics, many found out that care planning was likely not something that would simply go away.
To start planning early, as well as to protect hard-earned assets and savings intended for retirement, Genworth suggests the following four principles of long-term care planning:
Think beyond the present to make sure tomorrow’s goals do not go unplanned. Plan for long-term costs now in order to avoid negative impacts to your overall retirement strategy in the future.
Enlist the help of an expert financial advisor. A trusted long-term care planning expert can help with financial basics and serve as a coach to help make informed decisions. In addition, they should be able to guide you in making a clear strategy and bring structure to your planning.
Consider family realities when planning, and involve everyone who may be affected. Become clear on who is willing to help and in what capacity. Establish if there are any responsibilities that family members are uncomfortable with performing, or if they have preferences about contributing financially or physically, and vice versa. It is crucial to consider how the family will evolve, and to have an honest and open discussion about possible roles during a potential long-term care event.
Write out a financial plan. Take all of your family’s goals and ideas and write them down, supporting them with a thoughtful strategy. As time goes on and life situations and finances evolve, adjust your plan accordingly to stay on track. With early planning for long-term care, both caregivers and care recipients can take control of their financial future and prevent adverse effects to careers, lifestyle, health, relationships, and state of mind.
Read the full Genworth Financial research study here.
For additional literature and advice on how you can help you plan for long-term care with a reverse mortgage loan, view our information page.