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Caregivers often have to take over the financial accounting for their parents; the first step of this course of action entails a fact-finding mission. Caregivers should make a list of income sources, assets, debts and liabilities-the entire shebang. Combined with insurance policies and Medicare/Medicaid information, a financial snapshot should start to develop, which will offer the caregiver some guidance on money matters. Caregivers may also need to investigate whether their aging parents qualify for financial assistance, either from the government or community groups. For example, aging adults may qualify for utility company discounts or could participate in senior center-sponsored health fairs to receive free screenings.
Unfortunately, caregivers are usually trying to get a handle on their parents' financial situation while making adjustments to their own money matters. Some caregivers have to decrease work hours or even quit their job in order to provide care for an aging parent, and when you add in the loss of employee-sponsored health insurance or a 401(k) match, it's projected that caregivers lose over $600,000 over the course of their lifetimes. Even though many companies offer benefits such as maternity leave for new parents, few provide elder-care benefits.
While caregivers lose out on income and benefits, they're also losing money out of their own pocket. If a parent and caregiver live in the same house, there's the cost of additional food, minor alterations to the home or the cost of gas to travel to and from medical appointments. It's impossible to calculate all the expenses of having a parent live with you, but the American AARP estimates that caregivers who provide more than 40 hours a week of care run through an average of $3,888 of their own money every year on their parents, while those who give a lesser amount of care spend $2,400 a year. And time is money: The AARP also calculates that the economic cost of all that "free" care provided by children was worth $350 billion in 2006.