"I spent all those years, all that money, caring for them. The least they could do for me is take care of me in my final days." Those are the words of so many people approaching and currently in retirement. Things constantly change in this business, there's always something new, except for people thinking their kids will be able to be their care givers should they hit the long term care phase of life, that doesn't seem to ever change. So many kids unknowingly set to become care givers just going about their lives, with no interest or experience in care giving, have no idea their parents are signing them up for the worst job they never asked for. Here is why your kids cannot be your plan for long term care.
Let's start breaking this down. In many cases, families start by two people getting married and making the decision together to start having kids. You get to choose when you start trying to bring children into the world. It's a conscious decision between two people, questions that make up the decision are will you both continue to work? Or will one of you stay home to care for the new baby? Will you arrange for day care? Or hire a nanny? Can you physically and emotionally afford for one of you to give up your career to stay home and take care of this new addition to your now growing family? Most parents to be have the luxury of discussing about all of these factors, all the logistics of raising a family before they start. Taking care of a planned for child at the beginning of their life is a very different job than unexpectedly taking care of a parent.
Let's flip the scenario upside down though and try to make some sense of it. Why do people think of their kids as potential long term care plans to begin with? It probably has to do with some of the responsibilities that overlap for both scenarios. Babies can't really eat on their own, can't bathe on their own, they can't get dressed on their own, can't really move around on their own, and they can't go to the bathroom on their own. People in the long term care phase of life can't do any of that stuff either. Because of that people feel like they can say things like, "well I wiped them and changed their diapers when they were babies so they can take turns and return the favor when I'm old and need it." Long term care affects the whole family, most of the time, the responsibility ends up falling on one of your children, the idea that all the kids come together, pitch in and take turns is a fairytale. The involvement that the rest of the family gets is the guilt from not helping as much as the one doing everything. I have NEVER once witnessed all of the children pitching in to help. One of your children will bear most of the weight. Furthermore, very rarely is this a conversation even being had on any serious level. Another famous line regarding long term care planning is "I'll just shoot myself if I get to that point." The problem with this other than obviously, it's awful, is that when you lose your mind, you forget where you keep your guns and your family won't let you. They step in and they carry the weight. All of it, from room to room shlepping you around. Is that fair to them? Is that what you envisioned all those years ago when you set out to have a family? Put their whole life on hold and get the front row seat on your deterioration because you didn't want to have a conversation when you could have.
In the ideal, all American situation, you start a family, raise your kids, retire, maybe a little travel, grow old together and then pass away peacefully together holding hands in bed while asleep. Nowhere in that circle of life does it say have an elderly incapable parent move in so that once you're done taking care of your own set of children, you then get to take care of your parents or even your in laws! Back in the day, probably 40-50 years ago, we did live in a world where the husband would work and the wife would stay home. She would take care of housework and the children. Caring and tending to their needs. The economy was more allowing of this back then. The cost of living was much less and everything was simpler. Fast forward to my generation, anyone over 50 now. Husband and wife are both working because keeping up with the lifestyle of a nice home and two cars is constant in the current economy. Kids having to carpool with others because they're enrolled in two to four after school activities that also contribute to the need for a dual income scenario. Weekends are made for trying to figure out how many kids can be fed at one home at a time. Which leaves little to no intimate time for husbands and wives at the end of the week. Now, let's try adding in a parent or two that needs full time care and attention. Any way of life that was before, would be dramatically disrupted by the addition.
Another thing to think about is the relationship between the parent and child dissolves the second the child becomes the caregiver. The relationship then becomes patient and caregiver and remember when your kid was 3 or 4 and they said they hate you because you wouldn't give them ice cream for breakfast? When the table turns, you become the one saying "I hate you, I don't wanna take my medicine", to your kid who is just there to give you love and comfort. As a parent, I know that can't be what you or anyone wants so we don't need to spend any more time talking about it but it does need to be at least acknowledged. As a parent, I know that our purpose for bringing our children into the world was for them to have their own significant purpose; not stop what they're doing midway through their life to give us sponge baths and diaper changes.
Here are the numbers according to the NAIC (National Association of Insurance Commissioners):
- 52% of caregivers did NOT feel qualified to provide physical care
- 70% of caregivers missed time from work, totaling $10,423 average out of pocket
- 58% of caregivers are between the ages of 25-54 with an average age of 47 in 2018 vs 53 in 2010
- 51 % are more likely to be the adult child of the care recipient
- 56% of caregivers have children under 18
- Health and wellbeing of a caregiver are 53% more apt to be under higher levels of stress.
- 63% of care givers are having to pay for care with their own savings and retirement plans reducing the base quality of living by 42%
- 35% reported repeated absences with 30% missed career opportunities.
Planning helps to greatly reduce stress and negativity surrounding the most difficult phase, hopefully you never have to go through. Having a plan doesn't always mean adding a cost. Conversations are free, there is no reason to not talk to someone who can help you get together a plan so that in case long term care does come knocking, you'll have choices, you'll have dignity and your family would think of you for who you were, not what you became when all control was lost. Please take steps to get some kind of plan together and please don't use the fact that you have children in your life to ignore the conversation and put off putting together a game plan.
It’s never too late to start the conversation. You can schedule a FREE consultation online to discuss your immediate needs.
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