We talk about the joys of caregiving, but it can take an emotional and financial toll on even the most loving person.
In September, I fractured my right foot in two places. For a few weeks I couldn’t do much for myself. It was torture lying there waiting for help. It was a preview of what it might be like should I need long term-care assistance.
This is the second of a two-part series on caregiving. I first looked at why your loved one may not be so receptive to caregiving. In this installment, I’d like to address the issues caregivers face.
AARP estimates that family caregivers spent an average of about $7,000 per year on out-of-pocket costs related to caregiving in 2016.
The report found that caregivers are spending nearly 20 percent of their income assisting those under their care.
Meanwhile, The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research study finds that 40 percent of Americans have experience in providing long-term care to an older family member or friend.
For the majority of caregivers with incomes of less than $50,000, this creates a significant financial burden. The survey found that 25 percent have reduced how much they save for their own retirement.
There’s an AARP video every caregiver should watch. Search on YouTube for “Caregiving: Ad Council PSA — Silent Scream.” Watch the 32-second version, which captures overwhelmed caregivers silently screaming. It’s an acknowledgment that caregivers want to help but can still get frustrated. It ends with a link to aarp.org/caregiving. On the site you’ll find a link to a “Prepare to Care Guide.” Offered in several languages, it suggests five steps to better caregiving.
Talk it out. It can’t be said enough how important it is to have candid conversations before there’s a crisis. And once you’re in it, be honest about your feelings.
There were times during my recovery that I felt I was a burden.
My eldest child, who is living at home while in graduate school, was very helpful. But each time she assisted me, I would apologize. I must have said, “I’m sorry,” a thousand times. Finally, my daughter asked me to stop it. I knew she didn’t always want to be bothered. It showed on her face. Still, I had to learn that was OK.
If you’re a caregiver, be clear about your commitment to helping even if you become exasperated or exhausted.
Form a team. Many caregivers go it alone, and that’s going to lead to burnout. Just like those of us who need care should ask for help, as a caregiver you need to also seek assistance. If you can’t get it from family members, check for community resources. Don’t be a martyr.
Put together a plan. Only 54 percent of caregivers have a plan for who would provide care if they could no longer do it themselves, according to the AP-NORC poll.
Tap community resources. Check for local services by going to eldercare.gov. Check to see if your employee assistance program has a list of resources you can tap.
Create a caregiving plan for yourself. Almost a quarter of caregivers described their health as fair or poor, and a similar proportion report the same about their mental or emotional health, according to the AP-NORC Center. They sacrifice time with their spouses, children and friends. They cut back on sleep, exercise or hobbies.
Remember, you can’t be at your best if you neglect your own care.
— Washington Post Writers Group