Cost of Caring for Ageing Parents: A Financial Guide

There are a number of financial considerations when looking after ageing parents. Here is what every child and caregiver needs to know about money and taking care of your parents.

by Calvyn Ee

It is no secret that caregiving is a noble but challenging task. It requires significant effort and patience to be able to look after someone who is in constant need of care. Even if you are well prepared for the task, having done extensive research on your loved one’s illness, figuring out the overall cost to care for them can be daunting.

The steady development of public health services means that the life expectancy of Malaysians is also increasing over time. 1 out of 12 Malaysians is an older person, while the number of persons aged 65 and above is expected to account for 15 per cent of the country’s population by 2030. This rising trend only shows that every family will need to be ready to take up the responsibility of caregiving for their loved ones.

When you start caregiving for your ageing family members, you must keep some financial considerations in mind.

Discussing Financial Plans

We have to address the elephant in the room first: discussions around money can, unfortunately, be very awkward. Questions such as, “Do I have enough funds in case of an emergency?” or “Am I open to discussing my current financial situation” can feel very scary to think about at any time. With rising living costs today, many of us may feel very anxious to think about our current financial position and how to make the most of it. For those of us looking after someone ill, it may even be overwhelming to think about on some days.

In Malaysia, financial distribution for healthcare is typically borne by the caregiver(s) and their family. Under certain circumstances, the financial burden is distributed among family members and may even require tapping into the care recipient’s funds (with their consent). If you and your loved ones do not clearly understand everyone’s shared financial position, providing the necessary level of care can become very difficult. It thus becomes essential to start the conversation as early as possible.

Get an accurate financial assessment of your loved one’s available funds. If your loved one has never disclosed their financial situation to you or other family members, it is very important to find out what it is as quickly as possible. Being able to know what they have is a good start to gauge how much will be needed to save, or to add on to, as part of long-term preparations. Moreover, you will also know how they are using the funds they have.

It also becomes important to protect them from the possibility of fraudulent cases. Scams have become a frequent issue among the elderly, as they are more likely to trust a fraudulent caller posing as a legal/licensed authority to trick them into giving away their money. If you do find out that your loved one was the victim of a scam, the least you can do is to help them accommodate their losses and help them where you can. Getting upset about it will only make it harder to discuss their financial security in detail.

Beyond financial needs, take the time to discuss other aspects of their future in detail. The legal aspects of managing their finances are also crucial in event of a serious medical emergency. Being prepared in advance can remedy a lot of issues that might arise over time as your loved ones’ health changes over time. Some things you can discuss with them include:

  • Potential “what if” scenarios that may leave your loved one vulnerable
  • How your loved ones feel about their current situation, in terms of their health and savings
  • Managing living expenses
  • Considerations to stay at a nursing care facility or receive in-home care
  • Changes to your loved one’s quality of life over time may necessitate medical assistance
  • Encourage prudent spending and investing
  • Placing important documents in easy-to-reach places

Money is a very emotional subject to touch on, so be sure to handle discussions over it as tactfully as possible. If needed, consider seeking financial advice from an accredited financial consultancy, such as the Credit Counselling and Debt Management Agency (AKPK).

Providing Adequate Care at Home

Caregiving while working can be very difficult to juggle at the same time. Not only do you have commitments to your work, but you also have responsibilities of your own – namely, providing for your spouse and children. And between having to meet all these commitments, you also need time to take care of yourself. Caregiver burnout can be harmful to you if you do not take good care of your own well-being.

Ideally, having the support of the entire family will do a great deal of good, not only for your personal well-being but also for your loved one receiving care. Being able to share the responsibility with other family members can make it that much easier for you to attend to your own responsibilities. It also has the added bonus of building deeper bonds of trust and appreciation for your family, especially when everyone is able to openly communicate about how to provide the best home care for your loved one. Cooperation goes a long way to making excellent headway with your loved one’s position. Have everyone be on the same page when it comes to caregiving, and give each other support when it is needed.

This also goes hand in hand with purchasing necessities. Everyone can take turns buying the needed items and drawing funds from a shared pool that everyone can contribute to. That way, everyone can put in a fair share of funds to use for caregiving without imposing too much on just one person. As an example, each person can put in RM60 to the pool; if there are six family members, you now have RM360. You can add smaller amounts as well in case the pool is low on funds. With so many things that need to be bought and services/utilities to pay for, expenses can easily rise without you realizing it. You will also have to accommodate for sudden changes that could also add to the overall expenses. Discuss this in detail with the rest of the family, too, so that they will be able to share the burden more effectively to help one another out.

There is also the concern of making changes to the caregiving space. Depending on your loved one’s health, you may need to make subtle, or significant, modifications to the interior of their living space. If they have difficulty walking, for example, you may need to spend on a walker or wheelchair to help them with moving around. You will also need to change their living arrangements by moving them to a room downstairs (if they normally sleep upstairs) and renovate specific areas to give them more room to move or to use the washroom without needing constant supervision.

Hiring Someone to Help at Home

Eventually, it may come to a point where everyone’s responsibilities start getting in the way of caregiving. You may find yourself having to be at work more often to handle a major project. Other family members may be going through their own highs and lows. It might not necessarily happen, but the possibility of it happening cannot be denied.

Under such circumstances, you may want to think about hiring an in-home care provider to assist with your loved one’s activities of daily living (ADLs) while you and your other family members are preoccupied. Your first thought may be to hire a domestic helper to keep the company of your loved ones and provide general care for them. However, in the event something happens while you are away, the maid may not be able to take the required action to help your loved one, or mitigate any harm that might befall them. Domestic helpers do not have the professional accreditation needed to handle such a circumstance.

Alternatively, you can hire a professional nurse or home care provider to give your loved one the attention they need. These professionally trained individuals can give your loved one the required level of medical care needed, as they are all trained and accredited to perform these tasks. In the event of an emergency, they are much better equipped to deal with the emergency promptly. Depending on who you hire, they do encompass different caregiving needs: professional nurses, for example, are more qualified to provide medical services such as wound care.

Home Care or Nursing Home Care?

The decision between picking a home care service or a nursing home may depend on your current financial standing. A nursing home is basically a long-term residential care facility, some of which specialise in dealing with elderly persons with specific medical conditions, such as dementia. You can make either temporary or permanent accommodation arrangements with nursing centres, and rates will vary depending on the services that will be required. Be sure to do extensive research on the nursing homes available, as some may not provide specific services that other centres do.

The main downside of nursing home care is the total expenses of placing your loved one there, which only compound as time goes on. Having your loved one stay in a nursing home can potentially set you back approximately RM3,000 or more in a month. You may need to fork out even more as some facilities require you to provide daily necessities for your loved ones while they stay there. The caregivers working there may also not be qualified to provide the kind of comprehensive care your loved one needs due to their health complications, making it that much harder for your loved one to rest and recover.

Meanwhile, home care services are able to give your loved ones the appropriate care they need from the comforts of home. The options for home care are also quite flexible, so you can even arrange for nightly care services if you worry that you will be back from the office late. Rates for home care services are also relatively affordable; here at Homage, you can get daily living care support for as low as RM29 per hour.

Ultimately, you will need to decide on what works best for your loved one. Be sure that they know what is planned out for them, as well, so that they can get accommodated for the care they receive.

Insurance Coverage

Does your loved one have insurance? What kind of insurance is it? What are the payments like? Your loved one may have applied to a policy on their own, and knowing what it entails will inform you of their coverage and entitlements in the event of a medical emergency. You might find out that your loved one’s plan is not a comprehensive one that meets their needs and that the premium payments are exorbitant in spite of what little benefits it offers.

Various insurance providers offer a wide range of packages that cater to specific needs, whether it might be for complete medical or life coverage, or even both. Make sure to do your research on available coverage plans that would be best for your loved one, while making sure that the payments to maintain the coverage will not eat through their savings, or from your own funds if you are financing it. Some of the more common insurance plans taken up in Malaysia include hospitalisation and surgical insurance, critical illness insurance, and medical insurance for seniors. Medical cards are also a popular policy choice that provides comprehensive coverage for all your medical needs, from providing a list of panel hospitals to coverage for admission and more.

If there might be jargon used that seems to be confusing, be sure to speak to the insurance agent to help you interpret the meaning of the terms and conditions. Otherwise, get a second opinion elsewhere. Know what you are getting into when applying for any insurance plan and how it will protect your loved one. For example, some plans may offer hassle-free payment processes to simplify your loved one’s admission to certain hospitals. Other plans might offer critical illness coverage that is a separate policy from the insurance plan.

You may also want to consider a life insurance plan as an additional safety net. At the very least, it will be able to provide for your loved one’s other family members if anything were to happen. Be sure to review the policy’s death benefits and what it entails if your loved one were to depart. Clarify points that you might not understand so that you know what you are signing up for on behalf of your loved one.

There are a number of insurance providers you can consider, including (but not limited to):

Emergencies

When an emergency does arise, financing the medical procedures needed to save your loved one’s life or to help them recuperate can be very worrying. Given the nature of the emergency, your loved one may be taken to the nearest hospital, whether it may be a public or private hospital. Admission and treatment fees at a public hospital are relatively affordable since healthcare is subsidised by the government; the quality of care they receive is also at a highly professional level.

If they have to be admitted to a private hospital, however, that is another question entirely. For one, admission and treatment rates are far higher, though your loved one will be getting excellent care, clean and modern facilities as well as the latest in medical technology to treat their complications. However, there are still other expenses that will add up to the total hospital bill. Some private hospitals may also charge between 6% to 10% of the overall cost as a deposit, which means you will need to have extra funds on hand when an emergency strikes

A common piece of advice is to save for a rainy day, but in the case of a medical emergency, it would be wiser to have a separate emergency fund set up. You can set a weekly or monthly amount to stash some savings in this fund, allowing you to have a financial fallback point to rely on when an emergency does happen. Other family members who wish to chip in can also do so, but be sure to discuss how much they are comfortable with contributing.

If your loved one is still working, find out if their employer provides any form of medical benefits, such as staff insurance policies or partial/full compensation for hospital fees. Any medical benefit they are entitled to can help with allaying the overall costs for admission and treatment – or, for some companies, cover the whole bill, with you only needing to pay for the general admission rates.

Getting Additional Assistance

You might be also able to get financial assistance elsewhere. There are various channels for financial assistance available in Malaysia, including government or state aid programmes, medical tax relief and many more. Various NGOs and other welfare organisations may also have their own programmes to help ease your financial burden. Thrive Malaysia has a list of financial support resources that might be able to help you and your loved one’s situation.

If you know the medications you need to get for your loved ones, you can get a new prescription for them from any nearby pharmacy. Most pharmacies actually offer discounted rates for medications they offer; all you need to do is ask at the counter. Some pharmacies may also provide membership programs that give a number of special benefits, including periodic medical checkups or preferential rates for various pharmaceuticals and health/medical goods they carry.

We at Homage can help you care for your loved ones every step of the way. Our trained care professionals are able to provide companionship, nursing care, night caregiving, home therapy and more to keep your loved ones active and engaged.

Provide the best care to your loved one today! Fill up the form below for a free consultation with our Care Advisory team.

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About the Writer
Calvyn Ee
Calvyn is an aspiring author, poet and storyteller. He spends his time reading, gaming and building stories with his action figure photography.
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