Most of us will face this in that 50 to 60 age range. That’s really critical, because that’s our highest income years that we’re facing this big issue. We need to think about how we can take care of our parents.
We know 1/3rd of us will leave the workforce or reduce our hours to be that primary caregiver, which is an admirable thing but you need to think very carefully about doing that. You are going to be doing some damage to your Social Security, and it means you’re going to damage your retirement savings because you cannot save as much. You might want to consult a financial advisor about looking at those numbers and preparing for that.
Start by talking to your existing employer, because many employers offer some sort of assistance. They may offer some flexibility in your work hours, and some of them even offer some benefits for caregivers so that you can access some of these programs.
We also have the Family and Medical Leave Act. Any employer that has 50 or more employees are required to give you 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Now, this is unpaid, but that allows you to then go back into the workforce. That may be an option. Consider all of those things before just immediately taking that plunge.
If you have a small employer that you’re working with, they often can be more flexible, especially if you’ve been a good employee and have been around a while.
This care is very expensive. Some families have opted for long term care insurance. Be aware that if your parents have not done this by the time they’re in their fifties, it’s probably too late to consider that when they’re in their seventies or eighties—it’s going to be so expensive. So, you’re going to depend on other assets to support that care. You might want to consult with an eldercare attorney. Many people think they can just have them qualify for Medicaid, but it’s not that simple. You need to consult with an attorney to find out how the assets need to be set up, how you can protect them, and make sure that they are eligible.
Also, there is a site called www.caremanager.org. You can find one person that can help you navigate all of these plans out there and help you figure out what to do. The government offers assistance as well (www.eldercare.gov). There’s another site called www.benefitscheckup.org, and this offers some assistance on things like pharmaceuticals, specific types of care. You can look up some of that and maybe get some help on your own.
It happens very quickly. Suddenly your parents are doing very well; they’re independent. One crisis can cause them to depend on you, and you have to be prepared to step into that.