by Carly Barker, CLTC | Featured Contributor
They’re called America’s “invisible workforce” — and you likely know at least one member, or are one yourself. I’m talking about family caregivers. These are people who may have demanding careers, but are forced to cut back, or put them on hold, to care for ailing or aging parents. The caregiver role may not be a full-time job, and it may be shared with another family member. However, regardless of its structure, it places an enormous burden on families.
For better or worse, the bulk of caregiving for the elderly, ailing, and disabled falls on women. Culturally, women bear the primary responsibility for the home and the kids — all while managing their own careers. And it’s women again who primarily help relatives when they are too old or sick to care for themselves. This is the Sandwich Generation: They’re stuck between caring for their kids and parents.
One of my clients is an attorney who was on the fast track to becoming a partner at a prestigious national firm. She worked hard to get there — she made Phi Beta Kappa at Stanford, graduated from Harvard Law School, and spent years in the trenches working 12 to 14 hour days. An only child from a modest background, her mother died when she was very young. She and her father were very close. He worked two jobs to pay for her prestigious education, and he was extraordinarily proud of his accomplished lawyer daughter.
But then her father was being treated for a very aggressive form of cancer. His income had gone to pay for her education, not disability insurance nor long-term care insurance, and he required a lot of care. His medications left him disoriented, so he was no longer able to drive. He needed help with the daily routines of bathing, preparing meals, and taking his medications. His daughter knew that it was her turn to take care of the father who had always been there for her. She took a leave of absence from her law firm. While she knew she’d be able to return to her job, she also knew she was taking a chance with her career.
Thanks to advances in modern medicine and technology, our life expectancy has increased significantly. This is great if we’re fortunate enough to stay in good health and if we have the financial security to enjoy the extra years. We all want to grow old gracefully and die peacefully in our sleep. Sadly, for most of us, that is unlikely. The reality is that most of us will require assistance in our later years to carry out the basic tasks of living.
Unfortunately, on a fairly regular basis, I receive inquiries about long-term care insurance from people who are already in the midst of treatment and not eligible for coverage. If only they had contacted me sooner… Now they’ll need to rely on family, friends and the nest egg they had hoped would provide a nice cushion for enjoyment – not for personal care.
Those family members needing help might have been able to stay on their own longer had some planning been done and long-term care insurance been purchased earlier on, when they could have qualified. Fortunately, now there are many interesting options in the long-term care insurance market. By doing a little homework, in essence, a person can craft a plan to fit a budget. Some plans have life insurance attached where benefits are paid if a person dies before needing care.
For those who are already immersed in the caregiving role, don’t be shy about asking for help. As they remind us on airplanes, you need to take care of yourself before you can take care of others. If you know a caregiver, reach out to see if there’s anything you can do to help. It might be something as simple as reading to the parent or family member a few times a week to give the caregiver a much-needed break. Sometimes, simply reaching you to check in can make all the difference in a person’s day.
Carly Barker, CLTC has been an independent insurance broker for more than 20 years and is known for providing unparalleled personal service. She works with clients all over the US, has taken courses in financial planning which has proven instrumental in serving her clients and interfacing with other professionals, as she understands that insurance is one part of a person’s financial picture.
Carly is an educator; she carefully presents information in a way that informs and makes her clients feel comfortable with their decisions
Carly lives in Berkeley, CA, but grew up in New Jersey, and attended Sarah Lawrence College. Deciding she needed to experience life outside the New York metropolitan area, she transferred to UC Berkeley, graduated with a degree in East Asian studies, then spent three years in Tokyo. She’s studied Hebrew, Japanese and recently returned from an extended sabbatical in Argentina where she studied Spanish. Carly is committed to living a balanced life—healthy food, plenty of exercise and personal development that includes yoga and meditation. Carly also enjoys life coaching, is currently getting certified through CTI (thecoaches.com) and is a graduate of their Leadership program.