Too often we fall into the role of caregiver by accident, taking on the job merely because it presents itself. You’re there, it’s your loved one, what else can you do?
The burdens of caregiving can have long withstanding impact on your physical and mental health, as well as your financial situation. It can last way beyond the act of caregiving, impacting you for the rest of your life.
As we age, we plan for many things. A new house. College for the kids. Retirement. But few add in the cost of caregiving for different members of the family. And in most cases, few are prepared for the burden it can cause.
Caregiving isn’t a one size fits all kind of process. Some will ease into it over several months or even several years, gradually taking on more tasks their loved one can no longer handle. Some fall into it head first when disaster strikes overnight. There’s never a solution that fits all.
Surveys show that caregiving takes up a considerable amount of time in a family caregivers life. Many spend 30 hours a week or more doing things like:
- Shopping for personal care items
- Attending medical appointments
- Transporting aged loved ones
- Preparing meals
- Administering medications
And that’s just the start.
It’s easy to say you’re doing it because you love the person you are caring for. They are a part of your life. But what would you be doing if the circumstances were different?
For adult children, in many cases, it comes down to working a paying job. And when you give up a paying job in your prime earning years, it costs you in the present by having access you need now to survive, and in the future as it impacts your ability to live into retirement, and possibly face caregiving issues of your own.
It’s a good idea to start exploring your options long before you need them. The idea is to problem solve together with the loved ones in your life before a health crisis arises and immediate action is required.
Gather as much information as you can before you start the conversation. If parents are receptive to the idea, they may feel comfortable reaching out to financial planners, lawyers, or other financial parties for resources and assistance. If they aren’t, you may consider a neutral third part to help things along. You can often find financial planning courses around your community that touch on this topic. And if you attend together, it can open new doors.
Family caregivers can help parents find government programs and benefits they may qualify for yet haven’t tapped into, including veteran’s benefits. In some cases, they can use creative ways to pay, such as pensions, life insurance, reverse mortgages, or long term care plans they haven’t used before.
Remember, caregiving isn’t just offering love to your parents; it’s taking time away from creating a healthy lifestyle of your own. You do many of the things out of love, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be compensated for the tasks that are above and beyond.
It’s okay to care for you too.