Jones & Bartlett Learning Nursing Blog

    Adult Children and Other Family Members Facing Increasing Pressure to Pay for Costs of Parents' Care

    Posted by Katie Hennessy on Jun 18, 2012 3:09:49 PM

    Robert O'Toole

    This week, guest blogger, Robert O’Toole, President, Informed Eldercare Decisions, LLC, writes that,

    "There is growing awareness that as elderly Americans are living well into their 80’s and 90’s an increasing number of adult children caring for elderly parents. The combination of longer life expectancies, severe budget problems in both state and federal governments, and the growing strain on government-sponsored social programs such as Medicaid means there is less public funding for elder care.

    There is growing evidence that state governments will be placing a greater burden on children to care for their parents. This change is not only foreseeable, but already gaining momentum. A study by the National Alliance for Caregiving looked at the percentage of men and women providing care for an aging parent between 1994 and 2008:

    Percentage of men and women providing care for an aging parent:

    • 1994 Men 3% Women 9%
    • 2008 Men 17% Women 28%

    Citing the same report, a June 14, 2011, Wall Street Journal article by Kelly Greene (“Toll of Caring for Elderly Increases”) notes that “the steep rise in people caring for elderly parents is taking a toll on the health and finances of many baby boomers.”

    One of the prominent sources of stress is the financial cost to adult children when they become caregivers. A June, 2011 report, Study of Caregiving Costs to Working Caregivers, by MetLife’s Mature Market Institute, put this cost at more than $300,000 per person over age 50 if they are taking care of elder family members. This number reflects lost wages, pensions, and Social Security benefits over their lifetime, due primarily to a reduction in working hours, or leaving the work force entirely early to care for a parent.

    These studies reflect the costs of care paid voluntarily by family members. Few people realize that in at least 29 states, the law allows state agencies to force family members to assume the costs of a family member’s care when their funds run out. Until recently, these laws have rarely been enforced.

    When a Medicaid application did not get approved in enough time to satisfy a Pennsylvania nursing home, it sued the patient's son for the $93,000 bill. Pennsylvania, like more than half the states in the U.S., has something called a “filial responsibility law.” These laws require that spouses and other family members support the indigent. The nursing home decided to enforce it rather than have Medicaid do what it was designed to do.

    The trial court found for the nursing home. Mr. Pittas appealed. The appeals court not only agreed that the nursing home didn’t have to wait until the Medicaid claim was resolved, it also found that the nursing home could choose any family member it wanted to when seeking payment for the bill."

    Robert O'Toole, MSW, LICSW

    The Elder Life Planning for Organizations program (ELPO) is a nationwide, low cost, caregiver support program for employers, associations, banks, credit unions, labor unions and religious organizations.

    Topics: elder life planning for organizations, elpo, Geriatric, Robert O'Toole

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