More often than not, questions about the cost of senior care top family caregivers’ lists of questions when it’s time to make plans for their loved ones’ care needs—and for good reason, too. Taking steps to prepare for the costs of senior care will ensure that your loved one gets the care he or she needs, when he or she needs it.
But it’s important to remember that the real cost of senior care goes beyond dollars and cents. For family caregivers, senior care requires personal and professional sacrifices that can’t be tallied on a calculator. These “invisible” expenses need to be factored along with financial costs to help you prepare for the real cost of senior care.
How to Prepare for the Real Cost of Senior Care At Home
Nearly 10 million people over the age of 50 provide in-home senior care for a parent, and the number of family caregivers has nearly tripled over the last 15 years, a study by the MetLife Mature Market Institute found.
Many families opt for in-home senior care, because they think it’ll be more affordable than a senior living community, but the real cost of senior care for family caregivers can be staggering. The total amount of lost wages, pensions, and Social Security benefits for the nation’s 10 million family caregivers was expected to exceed $3 trillion.
Most family caregivers find providing senior care an incredibly rewarding, enriching experience. But it can also be hard to balance the role of caregiver with the roles of parent, spouse, friend, and professional. That results in caregiver role strain: undue stress over a long period of time that has been found to leave caregivers emotionally and physically depleted and make them more susceptible to chronic illnesses and disability.
While providing senior care brings great reward, the cost of senior care can be financial losses, relationship strain, and health issues. These steps can help family caregivers prepare for and prevent that from happening:
- Respite Care: Finding a respite senior care provider in your area will help balance other aspects of your life with providing senior care; state or federal assistance might be available to help cover the costs.
- Adult Day Care: Adult day services are tailored to provide care and companionship to seniors to provide relief to family caregivers to balance career, relationships, and other responsibilities with senior caregiving.
- Family Caregiving Teams: Many family caregivers are afraid to ask for or accept help, but assembling a family caregiving team to cover different aspects of senior care is a great way to prevent caregiver role strain and burnout.
- Next Steps: Researching senior living communities and exploring financing options before your loved one needs them will help you prepare for the transition and avoid rushed decisions if senior care is suddenly needed.
The costs of providing senior care at home can be great—but so are the rewards. The key is to ensure that your loved one’s needs are being met in a way that also enables you to balance your role as parent, spouse, friend, and professional.
How to Prepare for the Real Cost of Senior Care in a Senior Living Community
The national median monthly rate for assisted living now exceeds $3,600, but it’s important to remember , however, that the cost of senior care varies greatly based on location and the specific needs of residents. Most family caregivers and seniors agree after making the transition to a senior living community that they wish they’d have made the move sooner—but the cost of senior care is often what held them back.
Considering the costs of serving as a family caregiver, that the median monthly costs of home health aides now exceeds $3,800, and that assisted living costs are mostly all-inclusive, however, you might find that the cost of senior care in a senior living community is actually less than the cost of home care.
And taking steps early on to prepare for the cost of senior care can help make monthly out-of-pocket expenses even more manageable for seniors and their loved ones:
- Government Assistance: Medicare doesn’t cover the cost of senior living, but assistance might be available through Medicaid, housing vouchers, or veterans’ benefits; an Aging Disability Resource Center (ADRC) is a great place to find what assistance might be available to your loved one.
- Home Equity: Home equity is commonly used to finance senior care costs. Talking to a realtor about steps that can be taken to increase the value and marketability of a loved one’s home a year or two before it’s listed can help fetch higher offers.
- Make Visits: Choosing the right senior living community for your loved one the first time can cut down on expenses associated with transitioning into a new community down the road; visit communities in your area with your loved one, gauge availability, and give your loved one time to make the right decision about which community is best for him or her.
- Be Flexible: The more flexible your loved one is about where the senior living community is located, what amenities it has, and his or her lodging accommodations, the easier it will be to find senior living options with lower monthly rates.
Planning for senior living costs can be a daunting and emotional task for family caregivers. You don’t have to go it alone. Assembling a family caregiving team to help make decisions and explore options will help, and turning to professionals for help ensures that your loved one is taking advantage of all the resources that are available to him or her.
The Bottom Line: How to Prepare for the Real Cost of Senior Care
Decisions about senior care for a loved one can be among the most difficult that adult children have to make. When preparing for the real cost of senior care at home, it’s important to factor in the personal and professional sacrifices that you’ll have to make and find ways to balance your role as a caregiver with your other roles in life. And advanced planning is the first step in preparing for the cost of senior care in a senior living community. Seeking guidance from staff at ADRCs and senior living communities will help ensure that your loved one is taking advantage of all resources available to him or her.