You may not have expected to find yourself so involved in caring for your parents at this time in their lives. Aside from the emotional commitment you’ve made to ensure that they receive the compassionate care they deserve, senior care can really take a financial toll on the entire family as well. Here are three top tips for making every caregiving dollar count.
1. Take advantage of cost-saving memberships and discounts
You might not appreciate the constant reminders from AARP that paper your mailbox once you turn 50, but you can certainly benefit from the money-saving discounts that you and your parents enjoy simply by virtue of getting older. That AARP membership nets you a generous 30 percent discount at LensCrafters, 15 percent off your UPS shipping costs, and up to 15 percent off your room rate at popular hotel chains, including Best Western, Hyatt, Marriott, Holiday Inn, and Comfort Inn. AARP members can rent a car from several of the largest agencies and save up to 25 percent. Restaurants like Denny’s, IHOP, and Applebee’s are happy to lower the cost of your meal. Many grocery stores offer senior discounts, as do some major clothing stores like Ross and Kohl’s. You can even catch a new release film at a steep discount: AMC theaters take up to 30 percent off your ticket price if you’re 55+, and theme parks like SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens make it easier for caregivers and their families to enjoy some recreational activities at a nice discount.
2. Watch out for hidden health care costs
Trying to anticipate long-term senior care needs so that you can adequately budget for them can be frustrating. There are so many “what ifs” involved. The complicated policy provisions and exclusions can confuse even people with insurance industry experience. Most loved ones are shocked by how much Americans spend on medical care for an elderly relative in the last several years of life. You might think your parents have great coverage and that Medicare will take care of most everything, but unless you examine the true out-of-pocket liability they face from copays and deductibles, you could be in for some shocking medical bills.
A study published in The Journal of General Internal Medicine in 2012 conducted by researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine outlined the huge financial burden that families experience due to out-of-pocket costs for older adults at the close of life. The survey, sponsored by the National Institute on Aging, showed that people with Alzheimer’s disease spent an average $66,155 during the last five years of life—approximately twice as much as the amount spent by seniors with cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
It’s easy to assume that medically necessary devices and home services are covered, but traditional Medicare does not pay for in-home companions, eyeglasses, dental services, or hearing aids. Medicare has strict requirements that must exist in order for home health care to be covered. In the 2012 study referenced above, long-term care expenses were the No. 1 category of out-of-pocket spending in late life, followed by home health care.
3. Thoroughly investigate all of Mom or Dad’s benefit options
If Mom or Dad already has a long-term care insurance policy, review the benefits closely to ensure the coverage is up to date. Consider consulting an insurance professional to help you assess your parents’ situation. An investment advisor or financial planner can offer guidance on how to structure your parents’ investment portfolio in a way that accommodates their current financial needs.
If the project is too big for you to tackle alone, enlist a geriatric care manager or other senior care specialist to help you investigate all options thoroughly. There are plentiful resources to help you through this— there’s no need to go it alone.