This morning I was amazed when I stumbled across the findings of a recent AARP study that showed the economic value of the labor of America's unpaid caregivers is an estimated $470 billion a year. This estimation is based on a caregiving salary of $12.51 per hour, which is conservative.
Anyone who has acted as a caregiver or whose loved one has acted as a caregiver will understand that the cost of caregiving goes far beyond finances. Caregiving is essential and meaningful, but it can also produces emotional stress that takes a toll on health, is costly in terms of time and energy. In fact, MetLife findings show that adult children over age 50 who act as caregivers for their parents are more likely to experience health difficulties than those who are not caregivers. Health, family and emotional well-being; these are things we can't put a price on. But when it comes to cash, here's how the numbers roll:
Further findings from AARP show that nearly 4 in 10 family caregivers report a significant degree of financial strain as a result of providing care. Also, while most family caregivers have full or part-time jobs, they work an additional average of 18 hours per week providing care.
The MetLife Study of Caregiving Costs to Working Caregivers showed that the total estimated aggregate lost wages, pension and Social Security benefits of children acting as caregivers for their parents is nearly $3 trillion.
These figures show that the costs of caregiving are high, but I think every family caregiver knows the benefits far outweigh the costs. Giving care to someone you love is priceless. If you have a caregiver in your life, remember to show them support. They are hard workers who are willing to sacrifice for the right reasons.
Are you faced with the costs of caregiving? The Alzheimer's Association provides a helpful breakdown of costs that a caregiver may encounter, and advice on how to handle them. If your loved one is in need of care beyond the scope of what you can provide, it may be time to consider nursing home care. We can help you create a plan to pay for long-term care without risking your loved one's savings. Contact us for a free consultation.
The latest installment of NPR's series, Inside Alzheimer's
Keeping your brain in good health
According to a study by the University of Pittsburgh, regular exercise like walking or lifting weights keeps your brain healthy and could reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
According to the author of the study, psychology professor Kirk Erickson, “brain size shrinks in late adulthood, which can cause memory problems.” Their study showed that simple exercise like walking 30-45 minutes three days a week could increase brain volume, particularly in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, regions of the brain important for memory.
Nearly three hundred healthy adults participated in the study, recording the distance they walked each week. Nine years later, researchers measured the brain size of participants using brain scan technology. After another four years, participants in the study were tested again. By that time, 116 of the nearly 300 participants had developed cognitive impairments or dementia.
The results were astounding. The study showed that those participants who walked the most reduced their risk of memory problems by half.
If you’re concerned about developing dementia as you age, you are not alone. The good news is that regular exercise in midlife can significantly improve brain health and memory in late life. Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for yourself; so get out and get moving!
Share with us! Tell us how you like to get out and get moving in the comments section below.
NPR's Radiolab offers an insightful examination of the gap between what doctors want for us and what doctors want for themselves when it comes to their own end of life decisions.
What happens if I become terminally ill and unable to communicate? This is a difficult question that many of us fail to ask ourselves, but knowing the answer in advance could save your family from a lot of heartache later on.
1. A living will (also known as an advance medical directive) is a statement of your wishes for the kind of life-sustaining medical intervention you want-- or don't want-- if you are no longer able to communicate your wishes.
2. A Medical Power of Attorney is granted to someone you trust, allowing that person -- known as your "health care agent” -- to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. This is also called a “Health Care Proxy.”
It is so important to have these documents. If you become incapacitated, meaning that you’re in a condition where you’re no longer able to make your own decisions, a medical Power of Attorney will ensure that a person who you choose and who you trust is in charge of what happens next.
If you don't have this document, the court can appoint a “guardian” to make medical decisions on your behalf. The process of appointing a guardian might cost your family well over $2,000, and the person chosen by the court may not be someone you would have picked yourself.
Choose your health-care agent carefully. That person should be able to understand important medical information regarding your treatment, handle the stress of making tough decisions, and keep your best interests and wishes in mind when making those decisions.
When you've chosen the right person, you should discuss your wishes with them in advance so if the time ever comes that they need to act on your behalf, they'll know how you would want to proceed. Be sure to communicate your beliefs, values and priorities when faced with the possibility of end-of-life decisions.
Making your medical wishes known through a living will and a Medical Power of Attorney now can take that burden off your family in a later time of crisis.
To learn more, please visit our Wills & Power of Attorney page, or contact us for a free consultation.
1. Treat yourself to healthy eating
Stress can bring on those junk food cravings, and sometimes it’s easier to microwave a frozen meal instead of going through the trouble of cooking. And you know what? Sometimes that’s okay. But every once in a while, consider quick and easy snacks that are actually good for you, like bananas, apples, berries, baby carrots or cucumber slices.
Consider incorporating more vegetables into your meals. Did you know that it only takes about five minutes to steam broccoli? And boy is it delicious with a sprinkling of cheddar, salt and pepper. And would it really take that long to throw some spinach or zucchini in your pasta?
For inspiration, check out these healthy dinner recipes in 40 minutes or less.
2. Get out and get moving
Regular exercise reduces your risk of depression and even helps you sleep better. According to the CDC, research has shown that doing aerobic or a mix of aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities 3 to 5 times a week for 30 to 60 minutes can result in improved mental health.
Getting outside can help remind us that life is more than just work and sleep. Motivate yourself to get some fresh air and take advantage of the calming effects of Nature.
Paying attention to your breathing has a special way of calming your mind. Studies have revealed that mindfulness meditation can help ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression and pain.
There are many ways to meditate. How to practice mindfulness meditation from Psychology Today provides instructions on how to begin your practice.
For further reading, check out this article from Harvard Medical School: Mindfulness Meditation may ease anxiety, mental stress
4. Take a break
When was the last time you took a break? It may be difficult to separate from the loved one you care for, but consider letting someone else take over for a few days. Do you like to travel? Is there somewhere new you’ve been craving to visit? Even a brief weekend getaway can refresh your mind and body.
Do you prefer to relax at home? Consider enjoying some much-needed me-time on the couch. Giving yourself a break can simply mean letting someone else take care of dinner, or allowing yourself to binge on your favorite TV show or a good novel for the evening.
5. Pamper yourself
Give yourself permission to relax. Soaking in a hot bath does wonders to alleviate tension. Try scented bath salts for aromatherapy, like lavender to wind down before bed. Better yet, make a trip to the spa. Give yourself a manicure. Soothe your skin with scented lotion. Your body and mind are deeply connected; care for one and you will care for the other.
6. Join a community
Sharing with others can give you the support you need. Caregiver.com can help you find a local support group in your area. If there are currently no support groups near you, consider joining an online community. There are thousands of caregivers out there who are struggling with similar difficulties as you are.
There are also many online resources that offer help and instructions for providing personal care for an aging loved one. Please visit our Links and Resources page for more information.
7. Ask for Help
This simple option is sometimes the last one we consider. Talk to a friend. Sharing your thoughts and feelings with someone you trust can be a simple way to feel better. Ask a family member to share in some of the responsibilities that come with caregiving.
Consider seeing a therapist. A professional therapist can offer you the best tools and techniques for reducing the stress in your life.
Talk to us. If you’re worried about how to pay for nursing home costs, there’s a good chance we can help. Visit our Medicaid Planning page for more information. If you’re concerned about your loved one’s declining mental health, you may want to learn more about Guardianships and Power of Attorney. There are many ways that legal solutions can provide peace of mind. Please contact us with any questions you may have about these services.
Share with us! Tell us how you unwind and de-stress in the comments section below.
Welcome to our blog at Legal Solutions for Seniors!