Costs of health care have skyrocketed in recent years. One visit to the doctor can cost hundreds of dollars for the office visit charge, lab tests, and procedures that are performed. Prescription drugs are expensive; one month’s supply of some medications can exceed an entire household’s utility expenses for that month. Special transportation needs not only take extra time, but extra money and effort.
The challenge of caregiving is expensive, both financially and emotionally. The stress can cause health problems for caregivers themselves.
Costs associated with health care include items that are rarely covered by insurance. For example, dentures or crowns, eyeglasses and some prescription drugs. Hearing aids and other devices are expensive.
For those who become blind or visually impaired by conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts, or macular degeneration, seeing eye dogs and other adaptations are added expenses. Even when a seeing eye dog is obtained at minimal cost, the cost of pet upkeep includes food, veterinary care and supplies. Money may have to be spent on lighting, magnifying devices and special books with large print for people with partial eyesight.
Patients with reduced mobility may have to get around in a wheelchair or a walker. Often, a home will have to be adapted with ramps, wider doorways, special handles and non-skid flooring. The cost of transforming a downstairs room to a bedroom is often borne by the caregiver of a person who can’t manage stairs.
Many elderly patients need adaptations to furniture and fixtures for their safety and mobility. Special recliners and chairs are designed to lift persons who can’t stand up unassisted. A hospital bed may be needed for someone with a heart or respiratory condition. Special equipment to boost toilet seats and special grips around bathtubs are essential for safety.
The loss of the caregiver’s job or even having to cut back on the number of hours worked is also a substantial cost of caregiving. As costs go up and income goes down, a family may be left with a serious financial problem.
Caregivers should consider some resources that will help them stay afloat. Options exist that may help alleviate some of the financial burden that comes with caregiving. Some suggestions for resources to consider are:
the company benefits specialist
community resources, such as social services
local support groups, such as the Alzheimer’s association
Medigap help line for making wise insurance choices.
Plan ahead by finding free or near-free resources for financial costs associated with caregiving. A financial planner can also help you figure out what assets are available for use in caregiving, without depleting all of your income and savings. You should also know which expenses are tax deductible. The costs of prescription drugs, adaptations, devices and even travel costs to specialists may be deductible if they constitute a substantial portion of the patient’s income. Check with your tax preparer for details.