To a remarkable agree, this has become the Age of the Caregiver. With an aging population and the high cost of professional nursing care, the percentage of American adults who take care of someone with a significant health problem has gone up from 30 percent to almost 40 percent in just the last three years.

In other words, nearly 4 out of 10 adults are now cast in caregiver roles. And that doesn’t even include traditional caregiving for people who are raising children. 

Obviously this has major implications for estate planning decisions in Massachusetts and across the country.

It isn’t only estate planning decisions regarding the person who needs the care that are at issue, either. Caregivers run the risk of compromising their own financial future when they take on a caregiving role. This, in turn, impacts the types of estate planning decisions they make for themselves.

Of course, the immediate challenges of responding to a loved one’s need for care to cope with chronic health problems cannot be denied. It is hard to think clearly about issues such as asset protection or the proper use of trusts when a parent, spouse or other person in need of care is struggling with a medical condition beyond their control.

But it is important to step back from the immediate situation long enough to get some perspective on what the options really are. For example, does it really make sense for a caregiver to quit his or her job in order to take on a fulltime caregiving role?  

After all, the financial impact from losing the income from that job will be felt not only now, but years into the future. For one thing, it is hard for someone to build a retirement plan for the future when they do not continue to make contributions in their prime working years.

Another option may be temporary leave from a job for a caregiver. It makes sense to be familiar with what the Family and Medical Leave Act does and does not allow in such cases.

Source: The New York Times, “Assessing the Costs of Caring for an Aging Relative,” Ann Carrns, August 28, 2013