Managing Caregiver Responsibilities

In the United States, more than 40 million adults provide unpaid care for adults or children in a given year. These caregivers are providing a range of care, from looking after sick or aging family members to supporting children or adults with special needs.

Caregiving can be a rewarding experience, as it can give you a chance to develop a deeper connection with a loved one. It can also be stressful and physically exhausting. Many caregivers report not only emotional strain but financial worries as well. Gail Hunt, President and CEO of the National Alliance for Caregiving, offers several suggestions for managing your caregiver responsibilities.

Plan in advance

“The No. 1 thing is to plan ahead if you can,” Hunt advises. If you have a child or relative with special needs or a disability, you’ll want to consider the long-term plans to ensure care for your loved one. Additionally, many care recipients are aging family members, and you also may need to provide care for a parent, grandparent, or other relative down the road.

Hunt suggests having a discussion with your relatives about their care plans and finances — whether they have long-term care insurance or money saved for elder care and where they want to live. Find out if they expect to live with you, in an assisted living facility, or independently. Include family members so that everyone has a shared expectation about who may be able to help with caregiving responsibilities, potential necessities for care, and an estimated cost. Families planning ahead should also investigate long-term care insurance.

Understand what’s involved in your caregiving situation

Hunt emphasizes that everyone’s caregiving experience is different and can be influenced by a variety of factors:

  • Who are you caring for? If the care is for an aging family member, your responsibilities may grow and change over time. If it’s for someone with cancer or a short-term illness, your responsibilities may diminish after medical treatment. If you’re caring for a child or adult with special needs, you may be providing a lifetime of care that may grow or remain constant through the years.
  • What type of care is needed? Some care recipients may require assistance managing finances, transportation, housework, and meal preparation. You may also be responsible for helping with daily living activities, such as bathing, feeding, and administering medicine. For care requiring specialized health treatments, you may need training or guidance that can be provided by the recipient’s medical center.
  • Where do you live in relation to the care recipient? Consider whether you would need to travel to provide care or pay for some of the support you can’t provide. The care recipient may need to move into your home or an assisted living facility near your home for you to ensure appropriate care.
  • What are your other responsibilities, and how will providing care affect your roles at work and home? The majority of caregivers have to adjust their work schedules — coming in late, leaving early, or taking more time off, says Hunt. Some people may even quit their jobs to care for someone, she adds. As a caregiver, you’ll need to weigh career decisions while balancing your caregiving responsibilities for others. Your decision may impact retirement planning, long-term care savings, as well as opportunities to advance your career and increase your wages over time.

Seek help

If you feel overwhelmed with your responsibilities, don’t be afraid to ask for help. When you’re caring for a family member, you also need to remember the importance of self-care. Your family and friends may be able to help take some of the weight off your shoulders. You’ll find that you have more energy to help the person you’re caring for when you are well rested.

While there’s not much financial assistance available for caregivers, you can tap into other resources for support, Hunt says. Some disease-specific associations or government centers, like the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, provide information, resources, and support groups. If you are caring for an elderly person, you can learn about services through your local Area Agency on Aging.

Because so much of long-term care in the united states falls to the family, the burden is easier if shared.


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