5 Effective ways to budget for senior care
It might not be at the top of your must-do list, but in addition to saving for that Hawaiian vacation and college tuition for your teens, you may find yourself facing a financial hurdle you hadn’t considered — senior care for your parents. Let's take a look at the impact your parents’ senior care costs may have on your own financial future, and how you can begin budgeting for them now.
Many seniors remain in good health and are able to enjoy years of retirement full of hobbies and traveling. But there comes a time when health takes center stage, and your previously agile and healthy parent needs senior care. No matter how well your parents have planned for their retirement years, it isn’t always enough when they can no longer care for themselves.
What senior care options are there?
The type of senior care your parent needs will mostly be determined by his or her health. The more independent your parent is able to be — in terms of daily activities such as bathing and eating — the less care he or she will require. Here are the types of care you will likely be looking at.
Seniors who are no longer able to safely live on their own but need only a light level of care would do well in an assisted living situation. Assistance would be provided with medications, meals, housekeeping and routines of daily living. Meals in an assisted living situation are served in a common dining room with other residents. Residents live in their own private apartments, with staff available 24 hours a day in case of emergency — which gives families great peace of mind. Most of these facilities have opportunities for socializing, crafts, hobbies, local day trips and other activities. Expect assisted living situations to cost between $2,500 to $4,000 per month depending on the size of apartment and level of assistance required.
For seniors who require a higher level of assistance and medical care, a nursing home provides licensed nursing services 24 hours a day. Some nursing-home residents will be there on a short-term basis, but residents in a nursing home for long-term care will usually share a room and eat meals in a common dining area when they are well enough. Nursing-home care runs between $4,000 to $8,000 per month.
Residential care homes
In a residential care home, residents may either share a room or have a private room and are usually cared for by live-in caretakers and a daily staff. These living situations offer a higher level of care than assisted living, with the relative comforts of a home setting. Assistance with activities of daily living, such as bathing and dressing, are typically provided. Services provided vary, so make sure to ask each specific home what services they provide. You will spend between $1,500 and $3,000 per month for your parent to live in a residential care home.
Many seniors wish to live in their own homes for as long as possible, yet they still require some assistance on a daily basis to maintain that independence. Home-care assistants can provide help with meal preparation, transportation, dressing, bathing or making appointments and paying bills. You might hire someone to come in once a week or stay 24 hours a day, depending on the level of assistance your parent needs. These services are usually paid for on an hourly basis.
Lesley Chang of Nurse Next Door, a private home-care company based in Vancouver, Canada, shared information about the various types of in-home care your parent may need. "There are many different types of home care available, and one of the misconceptions is that it's expensive," Lesley shares. "We have tons of experience working with families at different budgets, and we also have programs that help families who are in dire need of care. Nurse Next Door is truly unique in the sense that we're a health care company, but we're much more than that," she adds. Levels of service range from a level-1 caregiver to a licensed practical nurse.
How do we pay for this?
Many people are completely overwhelmed by the costs of senior care and don’t realize the magnitude until they are forced to search for a placement for a parent. Your parents may have planned for these expenses long ago, or they may assume that their remaining assets will be used to pay for their last few years of care.
Lisa Horowitz, CLU ChFC of LifeCycles shares five tips to help you budget for senior care.
- Consider a long-term-care insurance policy if your parents do not already have one in place. The earlier you purchase one, the more easily you can incorporate the cost into your monthly budget. "In addition, the premium of these policies can, in the right situation, have favorable tax implications," Horowitz shares. Talk to your parents and find out if they have a plan in place before you purchase a policy for them.
- When in doubt, save. Saving a little bit each month in an account that will bear some interest is a start. "While we cannot really predict the future — and all that it will hold for us and our older family members — doing nothing is most certainly not the answer," she says. Find small ways to skim off $10 here and $20 there.
- A thorough review of all assets and income of the family is a must. "In most family budgets, there are usually amounts paid for insurance that might not be needed in years to come," says Horowitz. "Those dollars can be used to purchase insurance that will provide benefit for the elderly family member. Or there might be a long-term investment like an annuity that might be able to provide dollars for premiums and at the same time continue to provide the retirement income it was meant to," she adds.
- Don’t overlook the employee benefits that a family member can access. Some corporations have programs available during open enrollment that include care for aging parents. "Maybe a policy can be purchased at a discount? Maybe there are other more practical ancillary programs that provide some elder-care services that would cost very little to participate in," Horowitz adds.
- Lastly — don’t leave any stone unturned. "Look at offers to buy benefits or insurance through associations, or membership organizations can also uncover available options," adds Horowitz. Do your research, make the phone calls, question the charges and financial quotes provided to you. Negotiate, barter and ask for a better deal. You want the absolute best care for your parent, but you still need to be vigilant about the costs.
Senior care costs can be a financial burden that your family isn’t prepared for. Take a few simple steps and plan for these costs as best you can, while still finding the best placement for your aging parent.