Senior Caregiving 101: An Introduction

Why It Matters:

  • According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 70% of people turning 65 will have a long term care need during their lifetimes.1
  • Nearly 40 million Americans serve as the primary providers of care to older adults living in the community (AARP, 2015).2
  • Working adult caregivers in the U.S. have substantially lower financial well-being than do their counterparts who are not caregivers.3

Rebecca Griffith tkc.profilePicture Written by: Rebecca Griffith | Transamerica
Jan. 10, 2019

4 Min readClock Icon

With 10,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 every day, and a rise in the incidence of chronic conditions, retirees and their families will likely face increasing demands when it comes to evaluating housing options, managing finances and health, understanding legal issues, and creating contingency plans for unanticipated events.2 Making informed decisions can take time as you learn the options available to you.

Navigating the Journey

Hiring a Geriatric Care Manager (GCM) is one way to navigate the complex caregiver journey. But at $250 or more for the initial assessment, and $150-200 per hour after that,2 many may find this option to be financially out of reach. Especially since the cost is entirely out of pocket because Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance plans don’t cover it.

PACE (Programs for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) is a less costly alternative offered by Medicare and Medicaid, and it may be partially or fully covered for some individuals.

Whether you seek help from agencies or choose to handle it yourself, there are several factors to be aware of as you explore the possibilities.

Long Term Care

The modern landscape of long term care planning is much different than it used to be, with many options available to meet individual needs. Providers generally fall into one of two categories: informal or formal care.

Informal care typically consists of family or friends who provide assistance with basic everyday tasks like eating, bathing, and dressing (also known as activities of daily living, or ADLs). Formal care involves a facility or provider being compensated for a specific level of care. As the level of assistance needed becomes greater than informal caregivers can provide, individuals will usually transition to a more formal care provider.

The Financial Costs of Care

Finding ways to fund future healthcare costs is one of the most important parts of retirement planning. Many individuals cover expenses with the help of insurance, some pay out of pocket, and others may be eligible for government assistance. While it’s tough to say exactly how much retirees will need, it’s helpful to consider the median costs for three common types of care.

Senior-Caregiving-series

The Other Costs of Caregiving

While family and friends undoubtedly want to help their loved ones, they may not be fully aware of caregiving’s inherent costs beyond finances. For example, in most cases, caregivers are sacrificing their own family and work responsibilities. Ultimately, the financial and emotional toll can be overwhelming, with researchers finding that caregivers are more likely to struggle with depression, anxiety, social isolation, and chronic disease. 5

Quality of Life

While caregiving has its challenges, it can also be fulfilling, and there are several ways caregivers can get the help they need. Technology-based caregiver support, education, and skills training can be an effective and efficient way to enhance caregiver knowledge and skills. Counseling, self-care, relaxation training, and respite programs can also improve caregiver and patient quality of life. 6

Other questions to consider regarding the retiree’s quality of life include:

  • Will my loved one be safe with his or her current level of care? For example, a certain level of independence can be maintained with the addition of a service that provides alerts for emergency medical help.
  • Are there opportunities for my loved one to have regular social interaction? Isolation can lead to overall decline.
  • Can my loved one take care of his or her basic needs? Determine what level of care is needed ― light housework, medication management, meal preparation, basic ADLs ― to begin your search for an appropriate provider.

Every situation is unique, and every choice is an individual one. The key is to be open to a range of possibilities and to maintain an ongoing dialogue. If you’re a caregiver, include the retiree in as many transition decisions as possible to ensure that their objectives are being met. If you’re a care recipient, be sure to speak up and make your personal preferences known.

Things to Consider:

  • Whenever feasible, retirees and caregivers should work together when making transition decisions.
  • Be sure the level of care needed and the level of care provided are a good fit.
  • Work closely with your financial professional to be sure future healthcare costs are part of your overall financial strategy.

1 “What Is Long Term Care and Who Needs It?” The Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program, accessed online January 2019.

2 “Geriatric Care Managers: A Resource for a Growing Population of Family Caregivers” Report, MIT AgeLab, October 2018.

3 “Poor Financial Well-Being for Working Caregivers,” Gallup, September 2017.

4 “Cost of Care Survey,” Genworth Financial, Inc., 2018.

5 “The Emotional and Physical Cost of Caregiving, Part 1” Georgetown Psychology Associates, February 2017.

6 “From Insight to Advocacy: Addressing Family Caregiving as a National Public Health Issue,” National Alliance for Caregiving, January 2018.

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