By Lisa Zamosky
A recent survey of 285 adults caring for an elderly parent and active on the online caregiver community, AgingCare.com, highlights the toll caregiving can take on the roughly 42 million adults in the U.S. caring for someone with disabilities. The survey was conducted by eHealth, Inc.
Caregivers often find that their relationships with spouses or other family members suffer, but so too do their finances. The survey found that caregivers are called upon to help parents cover the cost of medical services, and to navigate the confusing waters of Medicare.
Six in 10 caregivers surveyed reported being “completely involved” in helping their parents make personal finance and retirement decisions. More than four in 10 help their parents financially each month, including paying for the cost of medical care:
- Nearly 25% spend more than $6,000 each year on their parents’ care
- 24% help cover the cost of prescription drugs
- 23% helped pay for medical treatment
Most care givers – 84% – were part of the baby boomer generation. Like their parents, many said they hadn’t saved enough for their own retirement. Despite that, almost 3 in 10 expect to dip into their own retirement funds to help their parents financially, and 80% expect to delay their own exit from the workforce.
Delving Into Medicare Early
Caring for an aging parent naturally requires getting involved in the details of Medicare. Half of all caregivers participating in the survey said they have helped their parents review, update, or enroll in private Medicare coverage. Of those, 25% were surprised by Medicare’s complexity.
Perhaps that’s why most caregivers don’t use the opportunity made available during Medicare’s annual enrollment period (which ended on December 7) to review their parents’ coverage.
That’s often a mistake.
For example, the online Medicare information and plan comparison site, PlanPrescriber.com, found that the average customer on a Medicare prescription drug plan spent $2,076 out of his or her own pocket in 2012. But by switching to a different plan, an average savings of $654 for the year was available.
Caregivers Finding Help with Medicare
Medicare’s annual enrollment period just ended. However, a disenrollment period is coming up between January 1, 2012, and February 14, 2012. During this time, people with a Medicare Advantage plan who are unhappy with their choice can drop it and return to Original Medicare. You can also sign onto a Part D prescription drug plan to help cover the cost of medication during disenrollment.
Helping a loved one sort out the details of Medicare coverage can be confusing, but choosing well can have huge financial implications.
Given the high rate of financial assistance caregivers offer their aging parents, understanding and appropriately choosing among the many Medicare plan options matters both to aging parents and adult children caring for them.
To get help with Medicare details, and to determine if it’s best for your loved one to stick with his or her existing plan or make a switch during the upcoming disenrollment period, contact your local State Health Insurance Assistance Program for free personalized advice.
Are you a caregiver? What healthcare challenges have you faced while caring for a loved one? Please share your experience in the comments section.