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The real cost of caring for a loved one

When family can't provide care
When family can't provide caretheguardianhomecare.com

The time you've dreaded has arrived. One of your parents can no longer truly take care of him or herself. Maybe they need help getting in and out of bed or maybe they need help bathing or using the bathroom.

Navigating a flight of stairs is becoming impossible. Can the other parent help? Your father might be able to lift your mother, but how about the reverse? What if the other parent has health issues as well? If you're like most children, you rush to help. You drop what you're doing and go to your parent's aid. But at what cost?

Financially, providing care for a loved one may not seem like much, at least initially. It's obviously less expensive than hiring someone, and you feel obligated to help. Didn't they stand by you all those years and help you whenever possible? Now it's time to give back. Your family will just have to understand. And herein lies the real cost.

What if mom or dad lives any distance from you? Do you have to stay overnight? And while you're gone, what about your family? Do your kids have to make alternative arrangements for school activities or transportation? How does your absence impact the family dynamic? What if you're the main breadwinner? Are you taking more and more time from your job to provide care, and if so, how does your boss view this?

Under the Family Leave Act, you're allowed up to 12 weeks of leave, but your employer does not have to pay you. With no income, do you have enough in reserve to withstand the time off? What if your spouse or one of your kids is sick or hurt? How do you divide your time? And finally, what if you develop your own health issues and are no longer as capable of providing assistance?

The answer lies simply in having long-term care insurance. Depending on what you read, statistics will tell you that 70% of Baby Boomers will need some form of assistance or care at some point in their lives. For those of you who feel you're in the other 30% and don't want to pay for something you'll never use, alternatives to stand-alone long-term care insurance are readily available, such as a life insurance policy with a long-term care benefit.

Should you not need care, at death your loved ones would receive the insurance tax-free. Or, you could use existing assets and set them aside into a sinking fund in case care is required. But whatever method you use, don't wait till later. Later is usually too late. Be proactive today, and help protect you and your loved ones from the emotional, physical and financial stress of long-term care.