Family members of all kinds have fought over money matters since time immemorial, but it may be worse for cash-strapped caregiving families. The costs of caregiving activities, including hiring aides, buying supplie, and covering medical and pharmacy copays, negatively affect family caregivers' pocketbooks and morale.
According to the “Caregiving in the U.S. 2020” report by AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving, “about one in five caregivers report experiencing high financial strain as a result of providing care.” This is especially true for those involved in high-intensity caregiving for over 21 hours a week, who often deplete their savings and go into debt. Long-Term Care Planning is important to prevent family disputes.
However, AARP's recent article entitled “How Caregivers Can Stop Arguing About Money” says caregiving-related money conflicts are only partially about dollars and cents. Some are predicated on differences in priorities:
- Should the family's finite resources be directed to the care recipient or spread among all family members?
- Should the cost of something like a front door ramp for a parent's house be borne equally by all the adult siblings or solely by the primary caregiver who lives with that parent?
- Should a declining parent give all her assets to the adult child committed to caregiving or divide them among her children?
Caregivers, care recipients and other family members may have different answers to such questions and then can get into heated discussions. This can mean hard feelings that can destroy family relationships during the caregiving years and beyond. Here are a few ideas on how to avoid such conflicts with Long-Term Care Planning:
One strategy to help caregiving families avoid constant financial conflict is to handle little and big questions differently. For the little decisions that need to be made every day, such as which pharmacy to use, family members should defer to the primary caregiver's judgment. However, for more consequential decisions like selling the family home to help pay for a parent's nursing home care, all family members should feel their opinions are sought out and respected. It is typically the family members who feel like their voices aren't heard, who protest the most loudly and cause the fiercest debates.
If caregiving family members still can't find a way to stop arguing about money, then they should consider meeting with a member of the clergy, a family therapist, or elder mediator. A pro is trained to manage emotions, clarify points and frame acceptable compromises. They help prevent further damage to already damaged family relationships.
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Reference: AARP (Feb. 8, 2022) “How Caregivers Can Stop Arguing About Money”