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Your Caregiver Checklist

May 07, 2019

Caring for an aging family member can be a rewarding experience, but it can also be physically, emotionally, and financially draining. By thoughtfully evaluating your loved one's needs, you will not only be able to provide useful support and anticipate trouble spots but also ensure that your long-term financial wellness won’t be impacted negatively.

 

Financial self-care:

Prudential's Financial Wellness 2018 Census reports that at least half of caregivers also work full-time for an employer; indeed, most caregivers are working in some capacity, whether part-time, as a small business owner or as a gig worker.

Unfortunately, it’s easy for caregivers to get caught up in the moment of a crisis — cutting their work hours, dipping into savings for medical expenses, and sacrificing their own retirement savings to help finance a loved one’s care. It’s important to take care of yourself during this stressful time, and part of that means ensuring you don’t compromise your long-term financial well-being as you provide care and assistance. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Evaluate your financial situation and budget for what you're able to spend toward your loved one's care. It's okay to ask other elders in your life about their financial situation to help you make informed financial decisions about what's possible.

  • Create and maintain an emergency savings account. “Normal” challenges like your car breaking down or your water heater bursting can and do occur in times of family crisis. Having an emergency fund — ideally at least three to six months of your living expenses — can help prevent a crisis from becoming a full-blown catastrophe. If you're subsidizing your loved one's finances, include those expenses in your emergency fund requirements.

  • Understand the consequences of switching to part-time work. Beyond a cut in pay, you might be giving up health insurance benefits, retirement packages or paid time off. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives employees the right to take up to 12 weeks a year of unpaid leave to care for family members, while maintaining benefits, and several states have enacted laws that further expand the federal law. Talk to your HR department about FMLA and other benefits your employer may offer. You may already know that your employer offers health insurance and life insurance, but don’t overlook some important ones that may be part of your benefits package, like disability, critical illness, hospital indemnity and accident insurance.

  • Continue to invest for your retirement, even if it’s at a reduced amount, and do your best not to take loans from your accounts. Beyond short-changing your own future, you’ll probably incur financial penalties for withdrawing funds early.

  • Use this caregiving moment to consider how your senior years could play out. Research long-term care insurance, put together a will, living will (advance care directive) and medical power of attorney. Your future self (and future caregivers) will appreciate your forethought.

  • Consider getting life insurance (or revisiting an existing policy) to ensure that your caregiving responsibilities would be accounted for financially if something were to happen to you unexpectedly.

 

 

If you're a caregiver — or are likely to be in the near future — here are some questions to ask and issues to discuss with an aging relative:

 

Safety first:

  • Has the house had a home-safety inspection?

  • Are there ample fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors?

  • Do you need an auto-alert device?

  • Is it time to consider giving up your driver's license? Do you have access to reliable alternative transportation?

Elder care specialist Wendy Sabin, founder of Sabin Elder Care Solutions in Montclair, N.J., says these kinds of discussions are often very difficult for adult caregivers and their aging parents. If you face resistance, ask for help from your parents’ doctor, who may be able to provide additional information and support.

 

Health matters:

  • Do you have a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order?

  • Should you get a medical alert bracelet or ID?

  • Can you afford to pay for your daily medications?

  • Do your caregivers know the names of your doctors and all prescription medicines?

The patient and all caregivers should have a copy of this information with them at all times. Sabin recommends printing the details and keeping them in your wallet or purse.

 

Legal issues:

  • Do you have a will? Is it current?

  • Do your caregivers have a copy?

  • Is there a living will (advance care directive)?

  • Is there a health care proxy?

  • Who has power of attorney?

“It's critical at the beginning to speak with an elder law attorney," Sabin says, stressing that's true whether the person in question has significant resources or not.

Indeed, adds Dr. Robert Pokorski, vice president and medical director at Prudential Financial, “caregivers need to safeguard the financial assets of the care receiver, so the older person isn’t defrauded.”

 

Health insurance:

  • Do you have long-term care insurance or other kinds of supplemental insurance?

  • Is the paperwork in order?

  • Is your Medicare up to date?

  • Do you have any concerns about paying for medical care or tests?

“You want to know before there's a crisis," Sabin says.

Medicare, the federal health insurance program for Americans over 65, historically has not paid for so-called custodial care, such as help with daily activities.

Starting in 2019, however, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued guidance expanding what it would consider an allowable supplemental benefit.

Medicare Advantage plans — private health insurance offered by companies with contracts with Medicare — “may offer new types of supplemental benefits to enrollees, including home-based palliative care, non-skilled in-home support and services, and non-opioid pain management," according to the Better Medicare Alliance. “CMS also expanded certain types of benefits that were previously allowed, including temporary home modifications, such as stair rails and treads, in addition to bathroom safety devices that were previously allowed, such as grab bars in the shower."

 

A friend in need

  • What state, county, and community resources can be tapped?

  • Who in the neighborhood can be trusted to help out when needed?

“When there's a crisis, there's usually nowhere to turn if you don't have money," Sabin says. However, you might have access to more resources than you realize. Get to know your parent's neighbors and friends, and keep their contact information updated.

 

Want to discuss your options? Schedule a call Opens in new window with an advisor.

Prefer talking finances face-to-face? Find a local Prudential advisor Opens in new window.

 

This is being provided for informational or educational purposes only. Since individual circumstances vary, please consult with your tax, financial and legal advisors regarding your personal circumstances.

The Prudential Insurance Company of America Newark, NJ.

 

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