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Becoming a caregiver is a major financial decision

As our population gets older, more and more people -- from Las Vegas, Nevada to the far reaches of Maine -- will be caring for their elderly parents. This is undeniable given a recent report by the Pew Research Center, which found that in 2010, roughly 30 percent of adults were taking care of someone with a significant health issue. Just three years later, that rate is 40 percent.

Taking care of an elderly loved one who is either well into or entering the twilight of their lives is admirable and absolutely commendable. However, the caregiver needs to get organized before taking on this tremendous responsibility. Being a caregiver can come at great personal and financial costs -- and you can alleviate these costs by organizing your estate and preparing yourself for this new chapter in your life.

First, you may need to take time off from your job in order to be a caregiver. The Family and Medical Leave Act grants workers the ability to take time off in emergency situations -- and being a caregiver is one of these situations. But, the time off may be unpaid, and it could affect the natural progression of your career. So be prepared for this and communicate with your employer.

Second, according to a MetLife study from 2011, a female caregiver loses about $324,000 on average in wages, benefits and Social Security over the course of their life. Given that the average caretaker is a 49-year-old woman, this information is significant. You need to protect your estate and make preparations for how to financial handle this new responsibility.

Third and finally, you will want to consult an attorney to help you prepare and organize your estate. This attorney may also be able to help you with complex situations, like getting Medicare, Medicaid or some long-term insurance programs to help you take care of your loved one.

Source: New York Times, "Assessing the Costs of Caring for an Aging Relative," Ann Carrns, Aug. 28, 2013

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