Take the Stress Out of Financial Caregiving

One of the least discussed aspects of caregiving is the financial responsibility it brings.

Financial caregiving can refer to either the amount of money that a caregiver contributes to the well-being of their family member or the role they take on as manager of the family member’s finances.

A study done by Merrill Lynch found that there are over 20 million caregivers in the U.S. and they spend about $190 each year as part of their role. The company reported that 92 per cent of caregivers were also involved in financial caregiving.

Other information found by researchers include:

  • 65 per cent of caregivers pay bills for their family member
  • 53 per cent monitor the bank accounts
  • 47 per cent deal with insurance claims
  • 41 per cent file taxes for their family member
  • 21 per cent manage the assets or investments

The report also found that the average caregiver spent $7,000 per year related to their responsibilities including medical, personal or household needs.

Unfortunately, many times these caregivers need to dip into savings or even cut back on expenses to handle the responsibilities of the role.

But, being a caregiver to your family member does not always equate with hardship. With some planning, the transition can be a rewarding one.

Tips

  • It is a good idea to encourage your family member to make wise investments and to continue to save before a crisis arises.
  • You will need to know where all the important financial documents are, including details about insurance, pensions, investments, mortgage, and other income as well as expenses.
  • Set up automatic payment of regular bills from your family member’s account. This can be done for bills like water, electricity, insurance, etc.
  • Consider having any benefits coming in directly deposited rather than deal with cheques.
  • Find financial support – bankers, advisors, accountants, etc – that you can trust. Ask for a referral from family or friends, even a social worker or doctor may be able to give you the name of someone who is skilled at helping older individuals stay financially secure.
  • Don’t overstep your responsibilities. If your family member is still capable of making financial decisions let them maintain that autonomy. It is also a prudent decision to include other close family members in on what is happening or ask them for input when it comes to financial decisions. This will avoid any conflict or fight later down the road.
  • Seek professional advice before you or your family member dip into credit cards or loans to cover expenses. It is especially important to ensure that the debt is manageable and won’t get out of control.
  • Make sure your family member has a budget and sticks to it. Living within their means is the first step to a secure financial situation.

Caregiver benefits

In Canada, there is financial help and support for caregivers, including up to six months of employment insurance payments for those who need to take time off work to be with a deathly-ill family member.

There are also a number of provincial programs that can offer some financial support for caregivers.

Conclusion

The role of financial caregiver can be a stressful one but, according to the research, many family members indicate they were happy to take on the extra responsibility. According to the survey, 77 per cent indicated they would gladly take on the caregiving role again and 91 per cent said they were grateful for the opportunity.

Written by Chandra Lye

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