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Spring 2013

April Current Thinking Column

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

It's the Consequences, Not the Statistics!

by Williams E. Roberts, CLU, ChFC

In this historical moment, our families are experiencing what will soon become a tidal wave—a wave that is already causing overwhelming difficulty for millions of American families. Currently, over nine million Americans, age 65 and over, are in need of care on a long-term basis. It is estimated that 34 million Americans are caregivers, who provide assistance and care for someone over the age of 50.

The often untold story, however, is the emotional, financial and physical toll this tremendous task eventually takes on the caregivers. Children, most often the daughters of the elderly, put their lives on hold, sometimes moving across country to provide care for their parents. Meanwhile, they leave a family behind, causing a gamut of emotional issues for the caregiver and their family members. Already tight financial situations are stretched even thinner than before. The constant burden of care ultimately wears one down physically and is only exacerbated by the emotional and relational issues that can arise.

The emotional dimension of caregiving can be equally as impactful as the physical strain.
Deciding to remove driving privileges is often heart-wrenching on both the parent and child, who is forced with a difficult situation. Decisions about to whom and how care will be provided have to be discussed with the elderly. Often, the elders overestimate their capability to live on their own, causing conflict upon suggestion of an assisted living facility, nursing home or memory care center. These decisions wear on everyone involved and often ignite disagreements among the siblings making the decisions.

It is not that the caregivers are resentful of their responsibility to provide care for their loved ones, but the constant need to look after the elderly is physically exhausting. Emotionally, the impact of watching a loved one physically and mentally degrade can drain the caregiver. It has been estimated that it takes three years or longer for the caregiver to recover and rebuild a life once their roles ends.

In attempt to avoid this future turmoil, predetermining a game plan developed by all members of the family (including those needing the care) before the crises arises can go a long way toward mitigating the inherent stress that surrounds the situation. Providing financial instruments such as long-term care insurance can help alleviate the fiscal strain and generate options that relieve pressure on family members. New products that combine life insurance and long-term care riders are becoming more popular due to the combined benefits of these two cases—either way, the client receives a benefit. While this addresses the financial issues, the emotional and physical components of caregiving still weigh heavily on families.

There is no simple answer to this crisis. Hopefully, identifying this as an issue for families to be aware of will educate and help prepare them for a trying, sensitive situation. 

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