Being a caregiver is a balancing act that can be rewarding, but can often bring emotional, relationship and financial stresses. Whether caring for a life partner, family member, friend or neighbour, each circumstance presents a uniquely different journey that may, at times, be difficult for both caregiver and the loved one they care for.
It’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Others who have been in the same situation, like co-workers and friends, can provide insights and empathy. Many community organizations provide valuable training, counselling and support groups.
What you need to know before becoming a caregiver
To help plan for some of the challenges that come with the responsibility of this important role, gather as much information as you can in advance. Al Nagy, a Certified Financial Planner® professional and senior financial consultant with Investors Group Financial Services in Edmonton, suggests the following to help you understand what will be required of you as a caregiver:
Consult with a health care professional to determine how much assistance is needed and if home renovations or medical equipment will be required.
Talk to professionals, including legal and financial experts, about the implications for both caregiver and patient.
Understand the rules, regulations and financial supports available for those needing special care, as well as for caregivers.
Speak with the patient to ensure they are on board with any recommendations being considered.
Locate medical and bank records, insurance documents and other information relevant to your loved one, if your level of involvement warrants this.
The effect on your own life
It’s also extremely important to gauge and plan for how the added responsibility of caregiving will directly affect your own life, adds Al.
“Caregiving will eat up your time, impact your lifestyle and may affect you financially, especially if you’re using your own resources to cover costs,” he says. “Developing a plan for yourself, as well as for the person for whom you’re caring, is best done at the outset, as the need may become critical if the patient requires more care as time goes on.”
When you need to manage finances as well as care
If you’re in charge of your loved one’s finances as well as their day-to-day care, there are additional considerations to keep in mind and discuss:
Identify cash flows: Get a snapshot of the patient’s current financial situation to ensure there are enough existing funds and/or income flowing in to cover recurring expenses like residential services, home cleaning and snow clearing, utilities, rent or condo fees and taxes.
Evaluate financial resources: Determine whether the patient has enough resources to sustain long-term care or the cost of a care facility, if it’s required. Often seniors will sell a home and live off the proceeds. A CFP professional can help determine how long existing assets will last.
Determine personal impact: If there are insufficient funds for the level of care required, where will the additional funds come from–you? How will this affect your own lifestyle and retirement? A trusted professional can review your financial situation and help plan for your future.
Ease the path to the future: Ensure that powers of attorney and a will are in place to ease the path forward.
Keep the lines of communication open: Personal finance is a sensitive subject that likely holds great significance as one of your loved one’s last remaining areas of autonomy and independence. Be sensitive to their feelings and remember that it’s their money.
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For more on how financial planning can help you navigate the various stages of life, read The new financial planning landscape for boomers, The sandwich generation―are you caught in the middle? and Bringing together boomers, Gen X and millennials on money issues.