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  • Archive for November, 2013

    Thank you, Mom! A Story of Caregiving

    Thursday, November 28th, 2013

    This Thanksgiving, WISERs wants to thank all of the wonderful caregivers in America. As our last post for National Caregivers Month, we will share one personal story of a WISER staff member that can really tie some of the various topics of the month together.


    My mother was the caregiver of two of my grandparents, her frail and ailing mother and her aging father-in-law whom she viewed as a second father. Both were diagnosed with lung cancer in the same year, and although their paths took very different turns, my mother devoted most of her time to caring for them both.

    My grandmother actually began needing help a few years before her cancer diagnosis. She lived alone, after her husband for whom she cared for 20 years passed away from Alzheimer’s. One day she fell, broke her hip, and began a very long journey. She became ill, needed oxygen, required a walker, was in and out of rehabilitation centers, and eventually had to be moved closer to our home, although she still lived a significant distance. By the time she learned of her cancer, my mother had already cared for my grandmother for years. 

    My grandfather seemed to be doing pretty well until his diagnosis. He liked my mother to come visit him, but could still drive himself and do many of his errands himself. By the end, he needed her assistance with almost everything.

    My mother retired early for a couple or reasons, but mostly to take care of her parents. For years she drove them to almost every doctor appointment, radiation treatment, and physical therapy session. She did their grocery shopping, helped them with their finances, and picked up their medicines. It costs her gas money, lunches and dinners as she ran her errands, time at home—all common challenges of caregivers everywhere. It certainly wasn’t easy. Both of my grandparents had strong wills and despised what the disease and their treatments were doing to them. She was, unfortunately, the brunt of some of their anger and depression, which is another common experience amongst caregivers.

    My grandparents passed away in 2012, and I know that they were both content in their final days because of the care my mother gave them. She became their caregiver, even to her own financial detriment and mental health. My mother’s experience was not unique. In fact the average caregiver is 49, a woman with a career and children taking care of her widowed 69 year-old mother.

     I am thankful for my mother, and all caregivers who sacrifice for others. I hope that the blogs this month have assisted caregivers in facing the difficult circumstance and decisions they have to make, and hopefully it has helped others understand the problems caregivers face. November may be the month to focus on caregivers, but they deserve our respect and support every other month too.


    It is important to remember that becoming a caregiver can happen at any time, but often it may happen as you are nearing retirement. Even older adults who feel financially prepared for their own retirement may suddenly find themselves unprepared to manage the costs of caregiving.

    But it is equally important to remember that you are not alone. 66 million people in the U.S. provide unpaid care to a relative or friend. There are many resources available to make your task easier. WISER’s booklet, Financial Steps for Caregivers: What You Need to Know About Protecting Your Money and Retirement is a great place to start. Read it yourself, and share it with other caregivers you know!

    Elder Fraud and Financial Abuse Concerns: Spotting Elder Fraud as a Caregiver

    Monday, November 25th, 2013

    Elder financial fraud victimizes hundreds of thousands of elderly persons each year. Older Americans hold the largest percentage of this nation’s wealth, making them prime targets for abuse by unethical financial professionals, scammers, caregivers and even family members. Elder financial abuse is the misuse of an older person’s property or financial resources without their consent or understanding. Senior financial abuse scams are a multi‐billion dollar “industry.” Estimates say that it costs $2.6 billion a year. It can cause older Americans additional stress and serious health care concerns.

    Scammers use a variety of tricks and scenarios to steal, such as misusing credit cards, telemarketing, jury notices, and phishing emails. For more about the most common scams, read our special report on senior fraud. Victims of financial abuse are usually between the ages 80 and 89. Women are twice as likely to be targeted as men. Most of those victimized live alone and require some type of assistance either with health care or home maintenance.

    Caregivers, therefore, are often the ones that will see a problem first because of their close relationship with the elder. Caregivers frequently oversee or otherwise assist with finances of the person for whom they care. They may also have the Durable Power of Attorney, which allows you to make financial decisions for someone who has become incapacitated.

    Here are some common tactics that scammers and fraudsters use:

    • High pressure or misleading sales efforts (excessive fees and interest rates, large prepayment penalties, etc.)
    • Asking for personal information over the phone
    • Promises of gifts when signing up right away
    • People who promise to split money found, after a “good faith” payment is made


    You should also be aware of indications that someone has already become a victim. Some warning actions are:

    • Failure to pay bills, or bounced checks when there should be enough money to cover expenses
    • Failure to buy food or medication, especially if other unnecessary purchases are being made (jewelry, golf clubs, home repairs)
    • Taking out large amounts of money from bank or cash accounts, or making numerous withdrawals of smaller amounts
    • Missing personal property or belongings
    • Becoming too close with a much younger or otherwise inappropriate person
    • Writing checks for large amounts to people you do know


    For more information about how to protect those you care about, read our report written in conjunction with the Center for American Nurses on Protecting Your Mother from Financial Fraud and Abuse. If you believe the person for whom you care has become a victim of financial fraud,take a look at our caregiver booklet for a list of resources and agencies you can contact. The Senate Aging Committee also recently launched an Anti-Fraud Hotline designed to help elder Americans fight against fraud. The number is 1-855-303-9470. You can learn more about it from the committee’s press release here.


    Seniors who are victims of financial fraud and abuse have little opportunity to recover financially from their losses.  It is important to educate yourself and the person you are caring for about this important issue.  As a caregiver, you can play a key role in detecting signs of possible financial fraud or abuse.

    Working Together in Caregiving: The importance involving the entire family

    Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

    The truth is that for the most part a single person is “the” caregiver. This role can take a serious financial toll. As we mentioned in a previous blog for this month, caregivers often rearrange work schedules to meet caregiving duties and take on extra expenses related to caring for someone else. It is important, therefore, to talk to your siblings and other family members about the various costs accruing and how they can help you alleviate some of the financial burdens. It can be a hard conversation to have, but it is oftentimes acceptable to ask family for compensation for your hard work.

    Consider asking your family to pay you as an independent contractor for the care you are providing. Compensation from other family members will not only help you cover the day-to-day costs, but also help you to stay on track with your own retirement savings. If you are paid, you can set up a small-employer type of pension plan, such as a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) and continue to save for retirement even if you had to cut your hours at work or had to leave your job completely. You can read more about SEPs on the Department of Labor’s website.

    To ensure the best financial future for yourself as the caregiver of a family member, WISER suggests creating a contract between you and the rest of your family. Yes, this step can seem a little formal and maybe hard to bring up, but we believe it is one of the best routes to take to avoid unduly taking on financial responsibilities. These “personal care agreements” are official contracts that state what care will be provided and how much the caregiver will be compensated. These agreements make the care and payment clear for the caregiver, the recipient, and also for other family members. Having a formal contract and discussion with family can help avoid conflicts in the future. Make sure you bring your budgeting information and the worksheet you did earlier to the meeting with your family so they can better understand the costs involved.

    What should be included in these agreements? They should be about services in the future and payment for those services, not for services already performed. When deciding on compensation, look into what is typically charged for the services in your geographic area. Payments must be reasonable and similar to this standard amount.

    Make these contracts as detailed as possible to avoid any confusion later. Include the following:

    1. Date care begins
    2. Detailed description of services
    3. How often services will be provided (and allow for flexibility with language such as “no less than 20 hours a week” or “up to 80 hours a month”)
    4. How much and when the caregiver will be compensated (i.e. weekly, monthly)
    5. How long the agreement is in effect for
    6. Location where services will be provided
    7. A statement that the terms of the agreement can be modified by mutual agreement (in writing) of the parties involved
    8. Signatures by the parties and date agreement was signed


    Want to know more about the costs of caregiving and how you can involve your family in the financial planning? Read our booklet for caregivers.


    About Us

    WISER is a nonprofit organization that works to help women, educators and policymakers understand the important issues surrounding women's retirement income. WISER creates a variety of consumer publications including fact sheets, booklets and a quarterly newsletter that explain in easy-to-understand language the complex issues surrounding Social Security, divorce, pay equity, pensions, savings and investments, banking, home-ownership, long-term care and disability insurance.

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