According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, “An estimated 66% of caregivers are female.” Additionally, “The average caregiver is a 49-year-old woman who works outside the home and provides 20 hours per week of unpaid care to her mother.”
A Princeton study also showed that daughters are more than twice as likely as sons to care for ailing parents. So, for women out there with brothers, it might be time to start giving them the side eye – or to talk to them about their future plans, anyway.
Being a caregiver could also mean caring for a sick spouse or another family member rather than your parents. And since women are so often the ones who end up providing care to their loved ones, it’s definitely time for women to give some critical thought to the best ways to handle this task. This includes being prepared to help not only physically and emotionally, but financially too.
Below are a few steps to help you do just that.
Encourage Your Family Members to Plan
It can be difficult to talk to loved ones about unpleasant topics like end-of-life planning. However, it’s absolutely necessary.
Make sure your parents, spouse and other loved ones have clear directives on how they want their estate handled. This might include creating a will, setting up a trust or enrolling in insurance policies, like long-term care insurance, that can help lift the financial burden from their children.
Once you ensure your loved one has created a will, make sure they tell you where the will is located or who they filed it with. Additionally, now is the time to get all accounts, passwords and other information from them. As their caregiver, you will likely need access to their bank accounts so you can help pay their bills and manage their finances.
Many caregivers become an authorized user on credit cards or open joint checking accounts so they are able to pay bills and write checks on behalf of their ailing family members. It’s important that you or your loved one communicates these plans to your siblings and other family members so everyone knows who’s responsible for making important medical and financial decisions.
Know What They Want
Getting access to your loved one’s financial accounts and encouraging them to create a will is only one part of the equation. In order to truly care for a loved one, it’s important to know what they want financially.
Do they want to donate their money to a good cause after they pass away? Do they want to give a certain amount of money to children in need? Do they want to split their estate a certain way among their children? What do they want to happen after they’re gone, and what steps can you help them take now to ensure those wishes are carried out?
Also, where do they want to live down the line? Do they want to find a way to stay in their home and have medical professionals come to their house? Can they afford to pay for this type of help? Or does it make more sense to move into an assisted living center? Again, it’s important to know their wishes ahead of time because each decision will come with different costs and concerns.
Prepare Your Own Finances
It might sound strange, but in order to be the best caregiver to your loved one, you also need to take your own finances into account – not just theirs.
According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Gerontology, women often leave the workforce to be caregivers. Not only that, but “for men, caregiving has no impact on employment status,” reported The New York Times.
This means that women need to be especially aware of their own savings and retirement goals. If they leave the workforce to care for a loved one, they could lose significant investment potential and the opportunity to move forward in their careers. Of course, not every woman will leave the workforce to become a caregiver, but this study shows it’s more common if you’re a woman than if you’re a man.
Think about the relationship you have with your parents and your siblings now. If you feel like you’re the most likely person in your family to take care of your loved ones, take a hard look at your finances to see if you’ll be ready for the challenge.
Ultimately, if you want to make wise financial decisions when caring for a loved one, you first have to start with your own finances. The more you save and plan now, the better you’ll be able to make the right financial decisions for your loved ones in the future. And the more you talk to your parents, spouse or other loved ones and encourage them to prepare for their futures, the smoother the transition will be, too.
What concerns do you have about the potential for being a caregiver and how it plays a role in your financial future and theirs? Let us know in the comments below!
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