Unpaid Caregiver Care Saves State Money

Published in Woonsocket Call on July 26, 2015

With the graying of state’s population, Ocean State caregivers provided 124 million hours of care—worth an estimated 1.78 billion —to their parents, spouses, partners, and other adult loved ones in 2013, according to a new AARP Policy Institute’s report.  The total estimated economic value of uncompensated care provided by the nation’s family caregivers surpassed total Medicaid spending ($449 billion), and nearly equaled the annual sales ($469 billion) of the four largest U.S. tech companies combined (Apple, Hewlett Packard, IBM, and Microsoft) in 2013, says the 25 page report.

AARP’s report, Valuing the Invaluable: 2015 Update, noted that family caregiving for relatives or close friends with chronic, disabling, or serious health problems – so they can remain in their home – is nearly universal today.  In 2013, about 134,000 family caregivers in Rhode Island helped another adult loved one carry out daily activities (such as bathing or dressing, preparing meals, administering medications, driving to doctor visits, and paying bills), says the report issued on July 16.

Log on to AARP Rhode Island’s caregiving Web page (www.aarp.org/ricaregiving) to download the report as well as access information on recent caregiver legislation passed by the General Assembly and other resources: www.aarp.org/ricaregiving.

The Difficulty of Caregiving

The AARP report detailed how caregiving can impact a person’s job, finances and even their health, says the researchers.   More than half (55%) of family caregivers report being overwhelmed by the amount of care their family member needs, says the report.  Nearly 4 in 10 (38%) family caregivers report a moderate (20%) to high degree (18%) of financial strain as a result of providing care. In 2014, the majority (60%) of family caregivers had full- or part-time jobs, placing competing demands on the caregivers’ time.

According to AARP Rhode Island State Director Kathleen Connell, AARP’s study on caregiving affirms the state’s record as a trailblazer in the field of caregiving. In 2013, Rhode Island became just the third state to enact paid family leave, which is known as Temporary Caregiver Insurance (TCI). Also in 2013, Rhode Island enacted the Family Caregivers Support Act, which requires a family caregiver to receive an assessment,” she said.

Connell said that this year the Ocean State remained in the forefront of helping caregivers with passage of the Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable (CARE) Act, which calls for hospitals to provide instruction to designated caregivers. Additionally, Rhode Island became the 42nd state to enact the Uniform Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act. In Rhode Island, a court-appointed guardian can make important decisions across state lines.

“This new report, however, does demonstrate that we need and can do more to assist the many caregivers in our state,” said Connell. “Some of the ways we can help family caregivers include continuing efforts to improve workplace flexibility, respite care, tax credits and home care services,” she says.

Adds Charles Fogarty, Director of the state’s Division of Elderly Affairs (DEA), “This study demonstrates that the backbone of long-term services and supports are family members and informal caregivers.  Quantifying the hours and economic value of caregiving provided by Rhode Island families and informal caregivers raises public awareness of the impact these services have upon Rhode Island’s health system and economy.  It is clear that there is a significant need to support caregivers who, at a cost to their own health and economic well-being, work to keep their family members in the community.”

DEA works with the state’s Aging Disability and Resource Centers and local nonprofits and agencies such as the RI Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, Office of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Providence, local YMCAs and Adult Day Care programs, to provide programming, support groups and information to Rhode Island’s caregivers, according to Fogarty.  “Rhode Island also requires that a caregiver assessment be conducted when a recipient of Medicaid-funded Home and Community Based Services has a caregiver providing support in the home,” he says.

Improving State Support for Caregiving

            Although Maureen Maigret, policy consultant for the Senior Agenda Coalition of Rhode Island acknowledges Rhode Island as being a leader with progressive laws on the books supporting caregivers, specifically the Temporary Caregiver Insurance Program, more work needs to be done.

Maigret calls for better dissemination of information to caregivers about what services and programs are available.  “In this day and age we should have a robust Rhode Island specific internet site that offers caregiving information about state specific resources,” she says, noting that too often caregivers “just do not know where to turn to find out about programs like DEA’s co-pay program.”  This program pays a share of the cost for home care and adult day care for low-income persons whose incomes are too high to meet Medicaid eligibility.

          Rhode Island also falls short in providing subsidies to caregivers of frail low income elderly to keep them out of costly nursing homes, says Maigret, noting that the program’s funding was cut by 50 percent in 2008, creating waiting lists which have occurred over the years, It’s “short sided” to not allocate adequate resources to this program. The average annual cost of $ 1,200 per family for the caregiver subsidy program can keep a person from going on Medicaid, at far greater expense to Rhode Island taxpayers, she says.

          This AARP report must not sit on a dusty shelf.  It gives an early warning to Congress and to local lawmakers.  As Americans [and Rhode Islanders} live longer and have fewer children, fewer family members will be available for caregiving duties. Researchers say that the ratio of potential family caregivers to the growing number of older people has already begun a steep decline. In 2010, there were 7.2 potential family caregivers for every person age 80 and older. By 2030, that ratio will fall sharply to 4 to 1, and is projected to drop further to 3 to 1 in 2050.

With less caregivers in the trenches providing unpaid care to keep their loved one at home, the state will have to step in to provide these programs and services – for a huge price tag to taxpayers.  State lawmakers must not be penny wise and pound foolish when it comes to caregiver programs.  Funding should not be slashed in future budgets, rather increases might just make political sense especially to tax payers.

Herb Weiss, LRI ’12 is a Pawtucket writer covering aging, health care and medical issues.  He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.

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When That Time Comes for Liquidating Your Childhood Home

Published in the Pawtucket Times, March 29, 2013 

            It’s now a traditional rite of passage that marks a person transitioning to baby boomer-hood, that is the difficult task of cleaning out a childhood home. Like millions of aging baby boomers before her, a writer friend of mine is now facing this later life stage milestone and the challenging chore of cleaning out 50 years of accumulated “stuff” in her parent’s home, following the recent passing of her widowed father.

 

            The East Providence resident tells me that her parents, married for over 60 years, had lived in the same 1960s ranch-style house for 50 years, and the older couple’s household goods just kept accumulating.  “Beyond basic cleaning, my parents never really ‘decluttered’ or even had a yard sale,” she noted, where they could easily get rid of household clutter to make some extra cash.

 Overcoming Seller’s Guilt, Finding Time to Sort

             Never mind the emotional feelings experienced, especially the twinge of guilt at disposing of things that were once important to her parents, accumulated over five decades.  But what about the time it takes to just sift through a lifetime of accumulated household goods, clothing, and furniture, says my overwhelmed friend. “It’s just too much stuff to get rid of – especially with my very demanding full-time job and little time on the weekends to sort through things.”   

             “Many of my parent’s personal items, like a sold dark cherry wood bedroom set, dishes, glasses, barware and vases from the 1940s and 1950s, boxes of old coins, even hand-embroidered table cloths and runners, are just too nice to get rid of at a weekend yard sale,” notes my friend. But, because of their age these items may not be considered truly antiques, she says.

 

            “Where do you take mom’s collection of Franklin Mint plates, porcelain figurines of carousel horses and birds, even some Hummel pieces?” my friend asks, who does not want to drive around to the coin store, antique dealer or linen store to sell each item.  Selling on EBay is just too much work, she believes.

 

Choosing the Right Strategy to Liquidate

           So, what steps do older children take in cleaning out a lifetime of their parent’s personal mementos and personal belongings from their childhood home?  Do you rent a dumpster and indiscriminately begin tossing away their loved ones cherished possessions, or hire a professional liquidator or a junk hauler to have someone come and do the pitching for you?   What about holding a big weekend yard sale, that might just do the trick?  Be warned, by choosing one of these options you might be under-selling an item that could be valuable due to its age, quality or rarity.    

           Making the right decision on how to liquidate your parent’s personal belongings might just rest on how financially well-heeled they were,” says Scott Davis, who operates New England’s highest volume antiques venue, the Rhode Island Antique Mall with his wife Rae.  “Having liquidated many hundreds of estates I can tell you that unless you come from a family of significant means or your parents were knowledgeable collectors, it’s highly unlikely that the combined value of the estate’s tangible assets is going to have a wholesale liquidation value of over $5,000 once the family claims the items they want to keep (which are usually the most valuable)” notes the antique dealer.   “Thus you have to make a decision about how much effort is really appropriate for you to spend trying to get top dollar for every object.”

            “If your parent’s estate is known to have higher value tangible assets you might want to first hire an appraiser to determine the value of at least the most important items,” suggests Davis, noting that “a legitimate appraiser should always charge by the hour, not by item value.”

           Davis states that higher-end antique dealers or auction houses will “cherry pick” your items, only taking the most interesting and valuable things.  Antique dealers should typically pay the most for each item.  Auctioneers might bring more but will never guarantee it, and many items sold at auction bring shockingly low prices so deciding which way to go depends on your risk tolerance.  Others dealers or liquidators will offer to take a larger percentage of the household goods at a lower cost per item while junk dealers or junk removal services may take everything in the house but will frequently actually charge you for the service while keeping anything they can re-sell.   “You have to determine what type of service suits your situation best,” he says, going on to say that in his experience it never pays to go straight to the junk guy first.

           Davis recommends that in most cases it doesn’t pay to attempt to sell items yourself noting that it can be very time consuming to sell things one piece at a time and buyers are hesitant to pay retail prices to inexperienced sellers.  An antique dealer or private buyers can be easily found on-line, in local phone books, or in dealer directories that can be found in local shops.  According to Davis, if you chose this option, dealers will typically offer you less than half of the anticipated retail value of the items but they of course have a lot of risk and expense along with their entitlement to earn a profit for their efforts.

          Some folks attempt to sell their items on EBay or Craig’s List but Davis warns that unless you have a lot of prior experience, the results are usually disappointing or worse.  Selling on-line yourself requires a lot of time for research, photography, copywriting, corresponding and shipping while buyers tend to shy away from sellers who have little or no feedback; resulting in no takers for fixed price sales or very low prices realized for auction sales.

           While it may take longer to sell everything, consignment is another option you might consider, Davis says.  However, the Pawtucket-based antique dealer warns that you’ll usually pay from 35% to 60% of the items retail selling price for this service. 

           Davis urges folks to always look for customer traffic, location, reputation and fee structure if you choose to place items on consignment.  Check the references of the antique dealer or liquidator you may be interested in working with, inspecting their retail establishment to determine if it is professionally run.  Meanwhile, he notes that consigned piece usually sells in 60 days or less; otherwise the price is reduced or the item is returned to you.  Antique shops or malls are the best places to consign more valuable antiques, collectibles and vintage items, while newer or lesser valued items will usually do best in local consignment shops that focus on useful second hand items.  Pawn shops are rarely if ever your best option unless you wish to borrow money using the items as collateral, he says. 

           When cleaning out a home, consider throwing away old mattresses, towels, bedding and paperwork yourself, as these items are usually not valuable and will cost you more for others to dispose of, says Davis, noting that often times it is not easy to determine what other things should just be thrown away.  “Although traditional antiques and collectibles like pottery, glassware and china, frequently have little demand in today’s market, seemingly valueless items that include war souvenirs, political memorabilia and even nostalgic items like old phones, light fixtures and old linens, may be quite valuable,” he says. 

          Davis warns not to begin your house cleaning by throwing things away in a dumpster or planning your yard sale without calling a reputable antique dealer or estate liquidator to assist you in “separating the wheat from the chafe” first.   They are accustomed to sorting through drawers, boxes, closets and basements and their experience enables them to quickly identify valuable items, he says.

         Finally, rare antiques and collectibles can be sold for top dollar at auctions, Davis notes. “The right item in the wrong auction can produce a total flop,” he observes, noting that there’s usually a long wait between the day you initially contact an auction house and day it actually sells – probably about a year.  A good full-service liquidator can help you to determine when auctioning is the right option and if so, which auctioneer will suit you best.  They are usually paid by the auctioneer for this referral service, so it’s a no-lose for the seller.        

             For more information on liquidating your childhood home, contact Scott Davis at 401/475-3400, email him at RIAntiquesMall@cox.net, or go to riantiquesmall.com.

 

            Herb Weiss, LRI ‘12, is a Pawtucket-based freelance writer who covers aging, health care and medical issues.  He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.