Updated: Oct 28, 2021
If we took the 1 in 4 Americans who care for friends for family who are, disabled, frail, or sick and paid them caregivers’ compensation- that compensation would exceed last year’s Medicare budget. That’s a lot of money, and a LOT of people to consider.
If you are a caregiver, you know that this act of love has its costs.
You stand to forfeit up to $650,000 in lost wages, pension and social security over the course of caregiving.
“Thirty-six percent of family caregivers characterize their situation as highly stressful, according to the "Caregiving in the U.S. 2020" report from AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC).”
Caregivers are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, depressed immune function and even hospitalization
Per the American Psychological Association: “among people aged 55 to 75, those who are caregivers show a 23 percent higher level of stress hormones, which can lead to high blood pressure, and a 15 percent lower level of immune response, making them more vulnerable to the flu and other infections
Add all that that, to the personal cost to your well-being (new demands leave you less time for your family and friends,) well let’s say- you are bound to feel unprepared and ill equipped to manage the daunting tasks of caregiving.
Caregiving includes tasks such as, managing complex medical regimens to remodeling houses to fit wheelchairs or even finding someone to stay with your loved one so you can go out to a movie. It involves worrying from a distance.
Shrouded in secrecy, solo caregiving compromises your ability to nurture yourself and others. It’s important to take caregiving out from behind closed doors and discuss it, plan it, and make it easier to implement later.
Start talking about the "what ifs" and make a plan. Having a system in place can reduce the uncertainty and create a sense of control, during what is often A turbulent time.
1. Start with Yourself.
What will happen to you and your family if you become disabled or die unexpectedly? Do you have disability insurance? Do you have a will? Do you have a living will, and have you identified the person who will make the medical choices you would make if you are not in the position to do so?
2. Approach Healthy Family Members.
Say, "I hope that you live many happy years in which you enjoy all of the pleasures you worked so hard to create." And then ask them if they have thought about what would happen to in the event that they cannot live independently anymore? If some medical event befalls them, who would make their medical choices? Meet with a lawyer and make a living will.
3. Look into Community Resources.
A day program, for example, helps you, and your loved one by providing social connections with peers, and respite care during the day. Your community may even offer transportation to and from the program. Getting out of the house offers the additional benefit of getting bodies moving. Socializing and exercise are the two most powerful interventions that help your loved ones stay at their best. Also, you can check out your local Area Agency on Aging as well as AARP.org, HHS.gov, Institute on Aging, AAA for services, support, resources and more.
4. Make Specific Suggestions to Friends, Family and Neighbors.
You may even want to keep a "help list." When they say, "Let me know what I can do," you have a response: "Could you take Mom to her physical therapy appointment this week?" "When you’re at the store, could you pick up some oranges and blueberries?" "Could you watch the kids for an hour so I can get to the gym?" Your friends will appreciate specific ideas about how they can help, as often people do not know the best way to be of assistance.
5. Take Care of Your Health.
Get good nutrition, plenty of sleep, and regular exercise to stay in top health. Wash your hands regularly to prevent colds and flu. Manage stress with laughter, friends, prayer or even finding moments to take a deep breath. Nourish your soul with a taste of activities that recharge your batteries such as writing in your journal or gardening. Finally, talk to your doctor if you feel depressed or anxious. The best strategies for effective caregiving include preparation, acts of self-care and reaching out for help. That begins with the courage to start talking openly about caregiving.
6. Hire a Someone.
Hiring a caregiver through a private company, or discovering that your insurance will cover a few hours a week, can assist in providing respite care. This respite care means you can trust that a skilled caregiver is there to help your loved one. This gives you peace of mind, support, and most importantly, time to focus on other tasks that you may be putting off. Additionally, It can allow you to spend time with your loved one, as just a loving family member.
Below you’ll find a link to a self-assessment for caregivers. It’s a great way to check in with yourself, or share with a caregiver in your family. In addition, at the bottom of the assessment, you’ll find some resources where support is available.