Last week I needed to help my husband with a family crisis. My husband is an only child, and his parents are in their 80′s. They have always been very self-sufficient–until about 10 days ago when my 89-year old father-in-law could no longer stand on his own. Too big for my mother-in-law to lift him, they both needed help, and fast.
So my husband and I stepped in to help. (Because he is an “only child,” there really wasn’t anyone else for them to call.) Cooking, cleaning, emotional support, transferring Dad from chair to bed to toilet and back–after about 3 days, we realized that we couldn’t provide them with the kind of ongoing help they really needed. After many, many, many phone calls, we finally found an agency that could help–at $240 per day. It’s a temporary fix to a long-term issue, but it buys us enough time to evaluate what the options are and what resources my in-laws have, to help them make the best decision for their future needs.
From my own recent experience, I have learned how important–and how exhausting–caregiving is. My husband and I have contacts and resources that helped. I can’t imagine how difficult this would be for someone who has neither.
So, I did a little research on caregiving, and here’s what I found learned from the Family Caregiver Alliance of the National Center on Caregiving.
- 65% of older persons in the US with long-term care needs rely exclusively on family and friends to provide assistance. The ability of family and friends to provide care determines whether they can remain in their homes.
- Women provide the majority of informal care to spouses, parents, parents-in-law, friends, and neighbors.
- The average caregiver is 46, female, married, and working outside the home
- Although men (like my husband) also provide assistance, female caregivers may spend as much as 50% more time providing care than male caregivers.
And if you are a working woman, caregiving can pose significant financial challenges, particularly in the form of to lost wages from reduced work hours. The Alliance reports:
Women don’t abandon their caregiving responsibilities because of employment. Instead they cope–to the best of their abilities–with the combined pressures of caring for a loved one, their need for income, reliance on often inadequate public programs and fewer employment-related benefits.
That was my own experience. I lost approximately 20 hours of work time last week because I needed to help care for my in-laws. I’m no longer on a salary–so that lost 20 hours translates into lost income for this month.
What I learned after just one week is there are only so many hours in the day. There is only so much energy I can contribute. The kind of caregiving my in-laws need is very expensive.
Whether you have children or not, there is a type of insurance that is becoming more critical in an era of longer lifespans. It’s called long-term care insurance. The younger you are when you purchase it, the less expensive the premiums are. Long-term care insurance increases the options available to care for you if ane when you need it. My husband and I purchased long-term care insurance for us 15 years ago. It remains one of the smartest things we have ever done to secure our future.