Family and friends want nothing more than to be able to care for their aging loved ones. For some, it means helping out with shopping and cleaning. For others, it can mean providing more personal care such as bathing and dressing. For many, it means administering medications and managing medical devices. In each of these scenarios, those tasked with the job of caring for their loved ones are subject to increased health and financial costs.

Commonly, families feel that they are unable to plan for the health and financial costs of providing this care. They feel they have no choice but to bear the burden alone. They are unaware of the options and possible assistance that could be available for their loved ones.

In 2016, the Alzheimer’s Association published a study detailing the health and financial costs to caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Ultimately, they recommend becoming educated about the financial resources available and then using that information to plan for the future. All families, even families with limited resources, can benefit from planning and learning what is possible and what is not. Knowing the options available is the only way to make the best choices for your family. An Elder Law attorney can help explain the available options and how to access them.

In a previous post, I discussed the cost of long-term care for the person who needs it. But the costs to caretakers can be equally significant. Without a proper plan for long-term care, the only option is to rely solely on family and friends to receive care. The 2016 Alzheimer’s Association study found that family and friends provided 18.1 billion hours of unpaid assistance in 2015. These unpaid caregivers include spouses, adult children, and friends. Even an estimated 250,000 children ages 8 to 18 provide help to someone with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. Such heavy reliance on informal help can take a significant toll on those unpaid caregivers.

The Alzheimer’s Association found that unpaid caregivers are at increased risk of developing health problems, which increases their own healthcare costs. Caregivers have a significant increased risk of depression, are more likely than non-caregivers to have high levels of stress hormones, reduced immune function, slow wound healing, new hypertension, and new coronary heart disease. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that Texas caregivers spend $756 million more on these increased healthcare risks than non-caregivers.

In addition to the increased health risks, the financial consequences of unpaid caregiving are equally significant. The Alzheimer’s Association study found that caregivers make great financial sacrifices, such as cutting back on their own food and medical care, to care for their loved ones. Unpaid caregivers were commonly found to spend money from their savings and retirement accounts, jeopardizing their own financial security. Some caregivers cut back on educational expenses for their children. The financial impact of dementia then not only effects the person with dementia and their immediate caregivers, but it can limit the education opportunities of their children and grandchildren.

Family and friends want nothing more than to be able to care for their aging loved ones, and with proper planning they can care for their loved ones without sacrificing their health and financial well-being. Contact an Elder Law attorney to learn about your options and begin planning for the future of your family.