Money in the Middle

Sandwich Generation Talking About Money Up, Down and Across Generations

Archive for the ‘Caregiving’ Category

Less Help from Employers with Retirement and Eldercare

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 Retirement planning, investment advice, elder care services – just three benefits that employers are cutting back on at just the time when more of us need them.

 It is a sign of the times…and economic reality.  Benefits increase costs and employers have just been through rounds of cost cutting. While cutting benefits has allowed more to keep their jobs, it has shifted where we look to for assistance.   

You are on your own more than ever.

A new survey from SHRM (the Society for Human Resource Management) says:  

  • Companies offering defined benefit (pensions) are down to 27%; 
  • On the other hand, companies offering defined contribution (401(k) plans is up to 92%; 39% offer retirement planning service (compared to 52% in 2006); 
  • 40% of companies offer individual investment advice (down from 48% in 2006); and 
  • 11% offer elder care referral services (down from 26% in 2006). 

For many baby boomers, the employer has been the source of assistance and resources on planning for retirement and family services –whether it’s childcare or eldercare.  Not anymore.  And while some of these benefits may come back, when economic conditions become more stable, it may not be in enough time to help. 

But, the good news is that there are resources available to help.  And there are services available if you have the money and willingness to pay for assistance.  Here are some suggestions: 

  • Check your 401(k) plan website.  There are usually very helpful tools to help you not only with investments but with overall financial planning. 
  • The government website MyMoney.gov is a great resource for all types of financial information  
  • Eldercare.gov can lead you to local elder care resources 
  •  For low-income seniors, Benefitscheckup.org from NCOA  can help identify what government provided or subsidized programs may be available. 
  • Health insurance company Humana just launched a subscription based caregiving support programs PointsofCaregiving.com that provides access to information and services.
  •  A geriatric care manager can be a life saver if you are struggling with what services you need and how to get them.  This association can help you find local resources.

If you are lucky enough to still have these benefits available through your employer, make use of them!  If you don’t, there are plenty of free and for a fee resources available. Family and friends can be good resources.  And, just make sure if you hire someone, you check out their credentials carefully.

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Long-term care crisis looming-time to talk

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5 Generations

If we needed long-term care tomorrow, most of us are not financially prepared. 

If our parents needed long-term care tomorrow, most of us have no idea what financial resources they have or their expectations and desires for where to live, who will care for them.

Statistically, 72% of Americans will need some level of care later in life. 

The crisis in long-term care is coming.  For many of us, it is already here.  So what do we do about it? 

I attended a session on Women and Aging 2010:  America’s Emerging Crisis last week in Washington sponsored by the Volunteers of America.  They have a robust senior housing program including a program that helps those who want to stay in their home or community (Aging with Options program at Volunteers of America). 

Good research, good discussion by a good panel – but no answer to the question of how do we even begin to have the family conversation about long-term care and finances.  Parents – especially the GI Generation _ don’t want to talk about money.  Baby boomers are generally in denial that they will ever need care.

Everyone agreed we need to have family discussions about this topic.  But, no one had an answer on how to have that conversation before crisis mandates it. and that, of course, is the worse time to try to make any decisions about money or long-term care.

Michelle Singletary, a finance columnist from the Washington Post (her column on the panel)  recommended starting the conversation with children now – hopefully once you need care, they’ll know what you have and what you want.  She also joked that her long-term care plan is that she has 3 daughters (and long-tem care insurance.)

But what do you do if you are caring for a parent now?  As a friend said to me today after her 92-year old mother went to the hospital with a hip fracture – “If I just knew what to plan for now –how long, what resources, what’s next. ”  But as those of us who have found ourselves in caregiving mode, planning need to happen a long time ago.  We just bump from crisis to crisis now – juggling life and catching our breath when we can.

This is a particularly important topic for women because we live longer and generally have lower incomes to support ourselves as we age.  The Volunteers of America survey said that among women caregivers, almost half (48%) say the recent economic downturn has made it harder for them to care for older loved ones.

And this is a middle class problem. As panel members noted — lots of money and you can pay for care, no money and you’ll qualify for government programs.  But a pension, Social Security and some savings and you’ll be figuring out how to pay for this care on your own.

 It’s not just the conversations at home – it’s flexibility in the workplace.  Almost half of the women surveyed (ages 45-65) expect to be called on to provide care to an older family member at some point in the future.  Yet elder-care doesn’t get the same flexibility in the workplace.  And the nature of eldercare giving is different – lots of doctor’s appointments and crisis events.

Volunteers of America says this is the beginning of a year-long discussion about women and aging.  That’s a good thing.  Because we’ve got a lot to talk about – and hopefully it can begin at home with a conversation today – or around Father’s Day if you need an event – to begin to talk about long-term care before the crisis hits.  It’s not just about money (though it’s an important part of the conversation)  it’s gaining the emotional intelligence so when the time comes you feel like you are on the preferred path.

 Michelle Singletary begins her column:  “The time has come.” 

Yes, it has.

America’s Caregiving and Aging Challenges, Volunteers of America research

video of Women and Aging panel discussion

Aging with Options program

Written by Laura Rossman

May 18, 2010 at 7:08 pm

Too High Cost of Caregiving

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If your solution to long-term care is, “my kids will take care of me,” there’s new research that shows just how high a price your children may pay in compromising their own health.

 Employees in the U.S. who are caring for an older relative are more likely to report health problems like depression, diabetes, hypertension or heart disease.

 That costs employers an estimated $13.4 billion per year, according to a MetLife Study of Working Caregivers and Employer Health Care Costs.  And some of those health care costs are borne directly by the employee.

 Here are some more findings:

 * Younger caregivers (18-39 years old) demonstrated significantly higher rates of cholesterol, hypertension, COPD, depression, kidney disease, and heart disease compared to non-caregivers of the same age.

 * Caregivers tend to skip their own preventive health screenings such as mammograms.

 * Caregivers are more likely to miss days of work and often switch from full-time to part-time to care for their elder.

 * Employees providing eldercare were more likely to report fair or poor health in general.

 * Female employees reported higher stress levels at home than non-caregivers.

 * Eldercare may be closely associated with high-risk behaviors like smoking and alcohol.

If you know anyone who is or has been a caregiver, you know this first-hand. 

While eldercare is often thought of as an issue you hit in your 50s, this survey shows caregiving responsibilities across all age groups, with some of the heaviest health toll taken by those ages 18-39.

The report, directed toward employers, calls for better coordination of wellness and eldercare programs, more work time flexibility and stress reduction seminars, among other benefits.  And while reducing employer health care costs is a lofty goal, we can’t help but wonder if in the current economic environment the call for more resources will fall on deaf ears.

But, this report can be a wake-up call to anyone thinking that having their children care for them as they age is a long-term care solution with no consequences.

It’s good reason to figure out now how to finance your own long-term care, whether though your own assets or long-term care insurance. I know the current economy makes that difficult for many of us. 

But after all the years of keeping them healthy, getting them to eat their vegetables, and get exercise — the loss of their good health for elder caregiving is too high a price  to pay.

Written by Laura Rossman

February 3, 2010 at 7:53 pm

Signs of Financial Help for the Sandwich Generation

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The White House yesterday introduced new sandwich generation initiatives.  While it’s a long way from being reality, it’s a welcome nod to the financial challenges of baby boomers trying to save for their own retirement, help their children and aging parents. 

Here are the highlights from the White House statement:

  * Help Families with Soaring Child Care Costs: The administration proposes to nearly double the Child Care Tax Credit for families making under $85,000 a year; with families earning up to $115,000 a year seeing at least some increase in their credit.

  * Helping Families Pay for Care for Elderly Relatives: At the same time, middle class families in the “sandwich generation” – struggling to care for both their children and their parents – will also benefit from new initiatives to support elder care for seniors, and respite for their caregivers. 

 *Cap Payments on Student Loans: To avoid squeezing recent college graduates entering a tough job market, we will ensure that payments on federal student loans are never more than 10 percent of the borrower’s discretionary income.

 * Save for Retirement: The initiatives make it easier to save for retirement with voluntary Automatic IRAs for workers without access to existing retirement plans through their jobs, larger tax credits to match retirement savings for millions of additional workers, and new safeguards to protect retirement savings.

Details on Care for Aging Relatives.

An estimated 38 million Americans provide unpaid care to an aging relative, including approximately 23 million caregivers with jobs and 12 million who are also caring for their own children.

The $102.5 million Caregiver Initiative will ease the burden on families with elder care responsibilities and allow seniors to live in the community for as long as possible. The Initiative adds $52.5 million in funding to Department of Health and Human Services caregiver support programs that provide temporary respite care, counseling, training, and referrals to critical services. The extra funding will allow nearly 200,000 additional caregivers to be served and 3 million more hours of respite care to be provided. It also adds $50 million to programs that provide transportation help, adult day care, and in-home services, such as aides to help seniors bathe and cook, help which eases the burden for family members and helps seniors stay in their homes.

Will it happen?  In this political environment,  who knows but at least it’s recorntion of the increasing financial pressure faced by those in the middle.

Written by Laura Rossman

January 26, 2010 at 2:37 pm

More Physician Support for Caregivers Ahead?

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if you are a caregiver –an exhausted caregiver — read this column from the New York Times about care for the caregiver and the changes that may be coming your way at the doctor’s office.

It captures the exhaustion and overwhelming sense of responsibility that comes with providing care to an aging loved on.

It also provides hope that doctor’s increasingly will find a way to deal with the complex relationship between their patient and the caregiver.  A paper by the American College of Physicians in conjunctions with ten other professional societies offers ethical guidance to physicians in developing mutually supportive –patient-physician-caregiver relationships.

Questions, according to the NY Times like:

How should physicians approach long-distance family caregivers? What should they consider when working with the caregiver of a terminal patient? How can they best support the caregiver who is convinced that he or she can never do “enough”?

With the number of caregivers fast approaching 40 million – and the aging of baby boomers  promising more of us will be or continue to be caregivers for spouses, siblings – tackling this issue is critical.

I had the benefit of dealing with a wonderful gerontologist when my father needed care.  Hospitals stays were their own nightmare of communication with physicians.  Finding ways to bridge the care link between caregiver,physician and the cared holds great hope for helping caregivers traverse this very difficult time.

 What do you think?.

Written by Laura Rossman

January 25, 2010 at 9:50 pm

Finding the Right Home As We Age

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Making the decision, or helping an aging parent make the decision, to move to an assisted living facility or nursing home is never easy.  It’s essential that the facility has the right kind of care and support and track record.  But it’s also nice to be able to find a place where your loved one can feel at home.  That often means sharing cultural traditions and language preferences.

 More facilities catering to seniors – from senior centers to assisted living facilities –now meet the needs of a diverse aging population by providing multi-cultural offerings.  This article from the Washington Post provides some great examples of facilities in the Washington, DC area that cater to specific ethnic groups.   You’ll find similar programs throughout the country.

 Online directories will frequently list languages spoken at a facility but may not give you a sense of the breadth and depth of programs available.  It’s worth asking and seeking a place that makes it a bit easier to find new friends who share interests and make it feel a bit more like home.

Written by Laura Rossman

August 27, 2009 at 2:13 pm

Share Your Caregiving Insights and Stories

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A few nights ago I was sharing war stories of long-distance caregiving.  We both agree that the worst part of long-distance caregiving is the guilt – when you weren’t there you worried and felt terrible you weren’t doing more when you were there, you felt terrible you had been away and now couldn’t do more.  Any woman who has been a caregiver, revels in sharing with others – to learn and also, just to feel like you’re not alone.

 So, I’m intrigued by an invitation I received to join a Twittercast on caregiving July 13.  You should join in too if you are a caregiver.

Caregiving is a huge part of women’s lives, and so often it’s a job for which we usually don’t get or expect monetary compensation. How can caregiving be made easier to make our lives easier?

Over the next couple of weeks, Fem2.0 is partnering with the National Family Caregivers Association and the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation to start a fresh discussion about caregiving and women.

 What is caregiving in all its shapes and forms?
 What role does it play in women’s lives?
What can be done, or what changes need to happen, to facilitate caregiving?

They are  looking for insights, comments, and expertise. And,for personal stories to illustrate the human experience of caregiving and to build a sense of solidarity among all caregivers.

Want to join in?  Here’s how.      Participate in the Women and Caregiving Twittercast Monday night, July 13, 10 PM EST — hashtag #fem2. Find out how to join a Twittercast here:

Written by Laura Rossman

July 13, 2009 at 12:26 pm