Elder Care Options for the Sandwich Generation Caregiver

March 30, 2021

Providing the best elder care you can for an aged parent is a challenge. Pair these challenges with the task of raising your own children, and even the most giving person is likely to have moments of stress and anxiety fulfilling both roles at the same time. If this sounds like you, you’re not alone: 47 percent of people between the ages of 40 and and 50 currently take care of an aging parent as well as children of their own. 

This group, known collectively as the sandwich generation, bears the financial, logistical, and financial burden that comes with being a caregiver for two unique sets of loved ones. Although options for long-term care are available, not every sandwich caregiver wants to remove their elderly parent or loved one from their surroundings: be it the parents’ own home or your own. In other cases, outside care of any kind may seem prohibitively expensive—even if having a few extra hands might be a godsend.

Thankfully there are options for sandwich generation caregivers that can alleviate the burden of providing and paying for care. In fact, there are several common options that can fit you and your loved one’s lifestyle. Better yet, these options may also fit your budget at the same time.

Consider Elder Care Affordability First

Every option for sandwich caregivers comes with certain tradeoffs: going it alone may be the least expensive option, but doing so comes at the expense of your own freedom, time, and emotional bandwidth. Many families fear that professional care may be prohibitively expensive, however. Most individuals in the United States do not have enough in savings to afford long-term care, leaving them and their family caregivers in a challenging situation.

There are lesser-known ways to help afford long-term care—some of which are already within a person’s financial portfolio. Here’s what to look for in terms of paying for elder care.

Selling a Life Insurance Policy 

For many people, selling a life insurance policy can create a significant amount of money to help make long-term care more affordable. By selling a policy, the policyholder can get a fair value payment based on the policy total. This often yields a payment that’s larger than what they could expect by cashing out the policy, which is often the better known option. 

Selling a life insurance policy to help pay for long-term care is easy when you work with the right partner. Worthright helps guide families through the process at no cost, and provides a cost-of-care calculator to help you determine your broader financial options. 

Long-Term Care Insurance

Long-term care insurance policies are somewhat rare as of late, but they can help offset the costs of home health aides, transportation to and from appointments, and fees associated with living in a care facility. If your family member has an existing policy that is in good standing, it may help pay for a sizable portion of your expenses.

Real Estate Sale

Some families opt to sell a family members’ home or real estate holdings to turn equity into cash that can be used for care, which can also come in handy if keeping an elderly family member in place is not an option. This option can help over the long-term, but may not result in immediate cash if a family member’s health takes a turn for the worse or if a person develops a medical issue unexpectedly.

Keeping Aging Parents In-Place

Aging in place is one of the more appealing options both for caregivers and their loved ones. When elderly family members can stay in their own home, they’re more likely to have a better quality of life and feel happier. One recent study found that 93 percent of Medicare recipients live in traditional communities, rather than assisted living facilities or nursing homes. 

Having a family member age in place can help reduce expenses for sandwich caregivers when their elderly parent is in good health and remains in a conventional home.There are potential financial downsides to aging in place, however. Parents in good health and without significant impairments may be able to avoid needing modifications to their home, but others may not be as fortunate. 

Modifying a home, whether that means installing a stair lift, installing ramps, or modifying bathrooms, can become a costly endeavor. For example, a single bathroom renovation can cost $9,000 alone. These and other modifications are often paid out of pocket, making it difficult for many sandwich caregivers to afford these costs on top of their other financial obligations.

Moving an Elderly Parent Into Your Home

Many caregivers opt to move an elderly parent into their home for several reasons: doing so can make it easier to manage their daily needs in balance with their own role as a parent. This option is also considerably cheaper than moving to a care facility or nursing home. With an elderly parent in your home, you can keep a close eye on him or her without having to shuttle back and forth to their home—or to have to take on more significant travel depending on their location.

Moving a parent into your home can come with its own challenges, however. The most prominent issue for most sandwich caregivers is the risk of burnout. Caring for a loved one with significant physical or mental needs can be a challenge for even the most empathetic, organized person. Bringing a loved one into the home can make it hard to switch off and take care of one’s self; setting boundaries becomes a must.

Bringing in Home Health Professionals

Home health professionals can help sandwich caregivers significantly. These providers can assist with tasks that family members may not be able to, and can also help with other daily tasks like cooking and cleaning. For family caregivers that are short on time and resources, home health professionals can alleviate the often-significant burden that comes with going it alone. 

One of the major benefits of a home health aide as an option for elder care is flexibility. The kinds of services offered by these professionals include:

  • Home companion care: companionship, socialization, and travel assistance for people who do not need medical assistance from a professional caregiver.
  • Personal care assistance: help with tasks that are unsafe or uncomfortable for a family caregiver to provide. This can include getting in and out of chairs, getting into and out of vehicles, or other trickier elements of caregiving from a logistical standpoint.
  • Home health care/aides: trained medical professionals who can help with the duties of companions and personal care assistants on top of non-emergency medical needs. This includes administering medications, wound care, and physical therapy, among others.

Aides can come for a certain number of hours per day or provide round-the-clock assistance, which means greater financial flexibility for families as well. Rates vary depending on location, but you can expect home health professionals to charge $20 to $30 per hour. This can add up quickly, however, so it’s worth making sure you understand exactly what your loved one needs in terms of care.

Moving to Senior Housing, an Assisted Living Facility, or a Nursing Home

Not every sandwich caregiver wants—nor needs—to put their loved one in a nursing home, yet many people may now know about the many alternatives out there that could be a better fit. These range from senior residential communities up through hospice and palliative care facilities. If you’re looking at your options for the right level of care outside of you or your loved one’s home, here’s what you need to know.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities

Continuing care retirement communities offer a flexible range of services for seniors that can grow along with their differing health needs. Seniors can move to a CCRC apartment and enjoy the benefits of living with people their own age without having to meet certain levels of health care needs. As their condition changes, you can easily increase the level of hands-on support they receive to correspond with their health requirements. Better still, CCRCs can function much like a nursing home if your loved one’s physical or mental state requires it; plus, they can stay on-site if this transition is necessary. The price of moving to a CCRC varies depending on location, needs, and accommodations—but can often be more expensive than other care options.

Assisted Living Facilities

Assisted living facilities offer communal services for seniors, rather than the more independent options that a CCRC can provide as a living style option. These facilities cater to people who need assistance with one or more elements of daily living, and are more intensive in terms of the role caregivers play in residents’ lives. The kinds of services assisted living facilities offer vary based on their approach to care, location, and other factors. Some also offer different levels of care, with less intensive services available as well as assistance more similar to that of a nursing home. Costs vary between providers and the amount of care needed.

Nursing Homes

Nursing homes are perhaps the best known option for elder care, and tend to be the first thing sandwich caregivers think of when considering their options for long-term care for a loved one. Even though nursing homes are perhaps the most care-intensive options out there for people in need of long-term care, they’re far from the first option that people should consider. There are other options that may be a better fit first, even for those who need intensive care. 

Elder Care Options for the Sandwich Caregiver: The Bottom Line

Caring for an elderly parent alongside one’s own children can be a full-time commitment on top of work and other obligations. That makes it all too easy for burnout to happen—be it physical or emotional in nature. The good news is that sandwich caregivers have options to lessen their burden. Some of these are low-cost, supplemental assistance from professionals; others are more comprehensive but also more expensive. No matter what your needs are, trust that there are ways to make affording care possible. To learn more about your options, reach out to a Worthright specialist today.


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