Sharing the Care: Who Will Care for Your Aging Parents?

(BPT) - Have you ever talked with your parents about their long-term care plans? It may not be an easy conversation to initiate but thinking ahead can help alleviate family stress and conflict.

Baby boomers are living longer than any generation to date. Consequently, their need for care is increasing. If a person lives to age 65, it’s likely they’ll eventually need some kind of long-term care, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports.

Who will be providing this care? Members of the next generations — primarily Generation X and millennials.

Who shoulders the burden?

The Northwestern Mutual 2019 C.A.R.E. Study found that two in five caregivers are caring for or have provided care for a parent. In this study, caregiving is defined as a combination of practical/personal care support, emotional support and financial support. In practice, it represents an average of eight hours of care per day and a quarter of the caregivers’ own monthly budget.

There’s a real disconnect between perceptions and realities when it comes to caregiving. “Families are fundamentally changing in ways that affect how they’re able to care for aging parents,” says Dave Simbro, senior vice president of risk products at Northwestern Mutual. “In addition to parents living longer, most of their children are working full-time and often having their own children later in life, and families are geographically dispersed.”

These complexities of modern life are further compounded by the fact that two in five families have had no proactive discussions about how long-term care needs will be handled, leaving the responsibilities of caring for parents largely on the shoulders of one sibling. Even when there are multiple siblings, 40% of the C.A.R.E. Study respondents say their siblings don’t assist at all, and 41% find themselves as the primary caregivers regardless of any sibling help.

What you can do now to prepare for later

Having candid conversations now can help avoid the unnecessary stress of decision-making on the fly, or navigating on assumptions or unspoken expectations, all of which take a toll on a family already under stress. Planning early also creates a feeling of shared responsibility, rather than placing the lion’s share of the work on one sibling or family member. Consider these suggestions:

• Ask your parent or loved one about their goals and desires for the future. Understanding their wishes is the first step in effective planning.

• Create clearly defined roles and responsibilities for each family member.

• Enlist the help of a third party, such as a financial professional, to help guide you through difficult planning conversations.

Planning for long-term care, both from the caregiver perspective and the needing-care perspective, can help prevent a gap around the perceptions and realities for family caregiving and ease tensions that may arise around an already heightened emotional situation.

For additional information on how to start the conversation on caregiving and plan for longevity, visit northwesternmutual.com/long-term-care-planning/.

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