Life in elder years is not cheap and longer lifespans mean more elder years for many.
Family caregivers often open not only their hearts and homes but also their wallets when caring for senior loved ones.
More than 10 million people over the age of 50 are caring for senior loved ones, including their parents.
Many seniors are outliving their nest eggs and need financial help to continue to live in their homes or to get the day-to-day care they need at this stage in their lives.
Sandwich generation caregivers and long distance caregivers are looking for solutions to help them meet their own needs, but also their children’s needs and their senior loved ones’ financial needs.
Too often what they find is just another bill to pay.
Costs Caregivers Are Paying
Family caregivers are digging into their pockets to help their senior loved ones in a wide variety of ways. They could be making sure their ends meet with monthly expenses or doing things that will make their seniors safe at home.
Here are just a few areas where caregivers spend money in support of loved ones:
- Helping with the cost of medical care including paying for co-pays to the doctor or hospital; buying their prescription medications; providing over the counter medications
- Bringing food and nutritional supplements so that their seniors get the nourishing food they need
- Modifying their senior’s home for safety and functionality; having home repairs made on their aging home including routine maintenance like yard work
- Helping to pay for utilities or taxes
- Being sure their insurance payments are made for their home, car, health and long term care
- Transporting them to their appointments
- Traveling back and forth to their home from out of state
- Paying for their connectivity by getting them broadband services, home tech devices or smartphones
- Helping pay the costs of facility dwelling, whether it is the monthly fee or extras like a phone line, beauty shop or laundry fees
- Loss of personal wages and ability to devote themselves to career advancement; inability to save for their own retirements
Financial Help for Caregivers
Few have the luxury of setting aside worries about money and just focusing on caregiving. There are many small and large expenditures just waiting for us.
Family caregivers’ main concern however is typically the health and well-being of senior loved ones. So how can we get help with the finances so we can focus our attention on our seniors?
Besides draining our seniors’ assets and our own accounts, there are other funding sources that may help you pay for some of your senior loved one’s care.
Will it pay for everything? Naturally no, but getting help with some things could free up available dollars to pay for other things your senior needs.
We won’t include income that most seniors already receive such as Medicare, Medicaid and Part D Prescription coverage and Social Security income but will review some sources of funding of which you may not be aware.
If you claim your senior loved one as a dependent on your taxes, you may be eligible to receive tax credits for their medical expenses. If you are spending your money on their healthcare, this might be a good idea for you.
Your senior doesn’t have to live with you to be eligible but there are criteria which you both must meet including income excluding Social Security benefits and the amount of support you provide.
Expenses that can be itemized include assisted living costs, healthcare fees, prescription drug costs, home modifications, personal care costs and transportation for the purpose of medical care. Because the amount can only be 10% of your adjusted gross income, you may want to discuss this with a tax professional.
Child and Dependent Care Credit
Those who are claiming their senior loved one as a dependent may also be eligible for a tax credit in combination with the medical expenses. One thing that can be claimed is the cost of home care.
According to the IRS: “Expenses paid for the care of a qualifying individual are eligible expenses if the primary reason is to assure the individual’s well-being and protection.” An eligible individual includes one who is “physically or mentally incapable of self-care if, as a result of a physical or mental defect, the individual is incapable of caring for his or her hygiene or nutritional needs, or requires the full-time attention of another person for the individual’s own safety or the safety of others.”
If providing home care for a senior loved one when you are not in the home, you may be able to save money by hiring someone on your own. If you need a companion versus someone to provide nursing intervention, a sitter would be more cost effective than a nurses aide.
Don’t overlook your own health and other needs. Family caregivers can seek agencies that will provide free respite care for the times when you need a break. There are organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association and local churches that might meet this need without costing your money.
Adult day care
If your senior qualifies for the local senior center’s adult care program during the day, this would likely be less costly for you than hiring a paid companion.
A number of options may be available, depending on the community. These are available to many seniors.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – this is a government benefit program providing assistance with food purchases.
- Home delivered meals – sign your senior up for a program that provides meals so that they will get a nutritious meal and someone to stop in daily. This could help the food budget.
If your senior loved one’s situation is such that you can utilize some monitoring devices, with varying degrees of intrusion into the lives of those being monitored, instead of a few hours of paid care this might be worth the installation.
If you have a doctor’s prescription, a medical alert system could be tax deductible. Other tech devices that are deemed medically necessary could be tax deductible too.
In many communities there is available help paying for heating and cooling costs for oil, gas, and electricity as well as some energy repairs if your senior meets the income criteria. Contact your senior’s utility company for information and application procedures.
If your senior qualifies for this or SNAP, they may also be eligible for assistance for the basic cost of a phone line.
Did you realize Medicare doesn’t cover all the medical needs of most seniors? Securing a supplemental insurance plan for out of pocket healthcare costs may be worth the extra fee. Tap into a possible Long Term Care Insurance policy if available.
Many forget about this insurance benefit and don’t make claims against it. If there is a life insurance policy in place, it can be converted into long term care benefit account and leverage the money now when it is needed for care.
VA Assistance Programs
If your senior qualifies, there are programs that can help veterans through a basic pension, household benefits and Aid and Attendance.
Other Sources to Consider
Check with BenefitsCheckup.org to learn about government benefits which your senior qualifies to be sure they are getting all the assistance they can.
You may also want to look into a reverse mortgage if your senior owns their own home or has built up good equity. It’s not for everyone so ensure your senior and you fully understand the term before they move forward.
There are also drug company programs that can help with paying for prescriptions medications. Usually these require some work to access but if you pay for many medications, it could be worth a try. Contact the drug companies directly online for possible programs. There is also a program through Medicare that can help with the cost of prescriptions drugs. Learn more here.
Hope for the Future for Caregivers
Family caregivers were heard at this year’s White House Conference on Aging. Our voices rang out that help is needed to care for senior loved ones, including how to be sure the finances are available when needed.
There are a few possibilities that could be coming to help caregivers meet seniors’ needs, based on discussions at the Conference. While none are assured, we are following these and will report to you on any progress.
- One area is for Congress to create tax credits and Social Security benefits to help financially support those who choose to care for their seniors.
- Another opportunity is to pay family caregivers for providing care and allowing seniors to remain at home as long as possible.
- Employers need to be encouraged in all industries to provide flexible opportunities for family caregivers to balance work and caregiving tasks.
Family caregivers are providing a vital service not only for their senior loved ones but also for our healthcare system who would otherwise be overburdened if we didn’t step in.
We all look forward to advances in support services for caregivers that are slowly evolving.