Resources to Care for a Loved One

Family members provide more than 30 billion hours of unpaid care for loved ones. According to a 2014 study of the Rand Corporation, the value of this work tops $522 billion per year. Experts agree that the cost of unpaid care is unsustainable, but the cost of paying for care is even more staggering and projected to cost $642 billion if skilled nursing care were provided. Even at minimum wage, the cost is projected at $221 billion.

Caregiving is often seen as a “woman’s job”. Women are no longer able to provide low cost or free elder care because 57% of American women are in the labor force according to the U.S. Department of Labor (2015).

Family values complicate caregiving, especially for women. For example, Latino daughters are “expected” to care for parents. Wives are expected to take care of husbands. Elderly “moms” are expected to take of children with physical or mental disabilities.

Thus many family members who provide unpaid care find the need to supplement the care they provide with paid services. According to the U.S. Department of Human Services (2010), the average cost of a semi-private room in a skilled nursing facility is $205 per day; the cost of an assisted living averages $110 per day; the cost of a home health aide averages $21 per hour and $19 per hour for a homemaker; and lastly the cost of adult day care averages $67 per day. Prices in Colorado oftentimes are even higher.

Among all of the concerns experienced by caregivers, paying for elder care is always one of the most stressful. The Colorado Senior Resource Guidebook provides answers for caregivers to do some comparison shopping. The Guidebook features a listing of all of the licensed housing and home care resources in Colorado with 2015 prices, services and some amenities.

While price is a determinant for many caregivers, caregivers often feel unprepared when interviewing potential agencies with whom they will place a loved one. The culture of the agency is often determined by the management team, but interviewing the front line staff is not usually part of the interview process. High turnover among front line staff, as well as management can contribute to the concerns of caregivers who leave a loved one in the care of an agency. The Guidebook features checklists that can be used when comparison shopping for care.

Paying for care can also be confusing. Medicare does not pay for most long term care. Medicaid will not pay unless the individual has very few resources, but knowing when and how to apply is complicated. The majority of Americans do not have long term care insurance. Most families pay privately, but getting good value for the care that is provided often leaves one wondering how to assess quality of care. The Guidebook provides basic information on securing payment through Medicare and Medicaid, as well as Veterans benefits for those who are eligible.

As families struggle on the journey of caregiving, many elders are reluctant to consider signing powers of attorney, “Do Not Resuscitate Orders” and other legal forms that can guide loved ones in making care decisions. Signing the appropriate documents allows caregivers to secure the services that are needed to provide care.

Caregivers and elders often believe that having a Last Will and Testament is the only legal document that is needed. But the personal representative of the Will is only able to act upon the death of the individual. Other legal forms are needed when the elder needs care.

Medical powers of attorney are required to talk with physicians about care, personal representative forms are necessary to talk with Social Security and Medicare, and financial powers of attorney are required to pay bills, sell stocks, and dispose of real estate. The Guidebook features copies of common legal forms that can be used when delegating powers to another individual. Legal advice is recommended when signing advance directives.

The Guidebook can provide information when making complex decisions. Free copies of the Colorado Senior Resource Guidebook are available at local libraries throughout Colorado. Copies can also be ordered at or by sending a check for $10 to Colorado Gerontological Society, 3006 East Colfax Avenue, Denver CO 80206. For information and counseling on elder care decision making, call 303-333-3482 and ask to speak to a counselor.

CGS has moved
As of June 6, 2016, The Society has moved to 1330 Leyden St Suite 148, Denver, CO 80220.
About the Author

Eileen Doherty

Eileen Doherty, MS has been the Executive Director of the Colorado Gerontological Society since 1982. She has more than 40 years of experience in education and training, advocacy, clinical practice, and research in the field of gerontology. She is an adjunct instructor at Fort Hays State University teaching non-profit management. She can be reached at 303-333-3482 or at

Share this Post