Between the rising cost of housing, higher health care premiums and out-of-control student loan debt, it’s no stretch to say that plenty of millennials feel like they’re drowning in bills. And for many, another expense is waiting just beyond the horizon: caring for elderly parents.
A recent survey reported that caregivers are sacrificing their own financial needs, careers and well-being to take care of loved ones. And according to a 2018 public policy report from AARP, 1 in 4 family caregivers is a millennial.
What’s more, many millennials aren’t prepared for the realities of caregiving. Modern caregivers juggle everything from grocery shopping and helping with household chores to tracking medication and arranging transportation to and from doctors’ appointments. Ultimately, some caregivers end up providing full-time care for a parent with Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease. Over half of caregivers in the survey mentioned above said they felt unqualified to physically care for their relatives.
If you’re in this boat or think you will be soon, here are five steps to take to make caring for elderly parents a little simpler.
Step 1: Talk to Your Loved One
If you haven’t already, sit down and talk with your parent, grandparent or other loved one about what they envision for their care and whether they have the finances in place (such as long-term care insurance, savings or investments) to cover that vision. Ask them what their plans are if they get sick or become disabled.
There’s a good chance this conversation is going to feel awkward, personal and backward — weren’t they always the one taking care of you? It’s uncomfortable but necessary.
Step 2: Prepare for the Possibility of Caregiving
Before caregiving is even in the cards for your family, make sure your loved one has the proper paperwork in place. This document, which may be called an advance care directive, spells out what they want their care to look like, including who can make decisions, what level of care they prefer and what their wishes are if they ever face a life-threatening illness or injury.
Also ask your parents about their living will, which outlines their desires and names someone to make decisions for them if they become incapacitated. Get a sense of whether your loved ones have these papers, if they’ve been filled out and what they say.
Step 3: Check Your Paid Leave Benefits
You never know when a caregiving situation will keep you from making it to the office, so research what type of paid family and medical leave you’re entitled to through your employer ahead of time. How many weeks can you take off to care for an ill loved one?
Consider your own finances and personal situation, as well: It’s important to figure out whether you could feasibly quit your job to care for a parent full time, as well as whether you have the money, room and resources to invite a family member to live with you.
Step 4: Map Out the Financials
Remember that you’re not the only option to care for a loved one; however, you might be the least expensive. The monthly cost of caregiving at an assisted living facility is roughly $4,000, while a semiprivate room in a nursing home averages $7,441 per month, and an adult day care program costs a median monthly total of $1,560.
These expenses vary based on location, so calculate the costs for various options in your region at the link above. Putting numbers to the different possibilities and discussing whether they’re affordable and covered by insurance is a great way to get a plan in motion.
Step 5: Determine Where You’ll Find Support
Caring for an elderly or sick loved one takes an emotional toll as well as a financial one. The good news is that you’re not alone. Don’t be afraid to reach out to resources like local support groups or online social communities when the stress, exhaustion and uncertainty of caring for elderly parents take a toll. Finding the right support system can empower both you and your loved one as you navigate the ups and downs of caregiving.