You don’t plan to be a caregiver. It just happens. You step up. It’s probably not a convenient time in your life. You may not even want to do it. You step up anyway.
When a parent or spouse needs help, you’re there because it’s the right thing to do. Your help may not start out as a heavy burden that affects your health or bank account. You might even see caregiving as a very temporary thing if your parents are usually healthy, active and capable of being in charge (maybe even ‘feisty,’ you say)? Whew! A bullet dodged…for now.
Here’s another “Aha” scenario: Many of us don’t see an older family member as failing – until a quick fall, an unexpected hospital stay or a bit of forgetfulness brings that aging thing front and center. Wham! You suddenly realize the need for some eldercare.
Or this scenario: Your loved one is ignoring the elephant in the room, even though you can see Dad often misunderstands his financial advisor. Or Mom struggles to choose a Medicare plan during open enrollment. Or, an advocate needs to straighten out a banking issue, right a medical overcharge or follow up on what appears to be a scam or identity theft.
So there you are. A family caregiver. A financial caregiver.
You might be a caregiver if…
- Your spouse has Alzheimers, Huntington’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, COPD or another chronic disease or disability.
- You are the one an aging parent calls for physical help or financial queries – often.
- You pay bills, drive to appointments or are the one listed to “call in case of emergency.”
People usually don’t ask to add that caregiver role to their resume. They may not want to do it. Yet helping family is what you do.
Who are these family caregivers?
A typical caregiver, according to the National Alliance for Caregiving…
- is a 49-year-old woman caring for her widowed 69-year-old mother who does not live with her.
- is married, employed, spends an added 20 hours/week caregiving.
- lives with a spouse, children or grandchildren dependents.
Being a caregiver is usually not a paid position. And, you probably don’t have experience either. In fact, you may be going it alone, even though other family might be nearby. Check out these stats…because November is National Family Caregivers Month:
- About 1 in 5 Americans – 41.3 million – provide unpaid eldercare to adults over 65, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015-16.
- A majority of these 41.3 million caregivers – about two thirds – are women.
- Roughly 6 in 10 are working a job in addition to their caregiver roles, according to Pew Research.
- The highest percentage of caregivers are in the 45-64 age group while the second largest group is 65+ themselves (probably caring for a spouse).
- Roughly 1 in 5 Americans over age 65 has already been financially swindled, according to the Investor Protection Trust 2016 survey. Victims are often targeted multiple times!
Caregiving costs caregivers too
While most family caregivers provide help for free, that care is estimated to be valued at roughly $375 billion a year, based on the Evercare Survey from the National Alliance for Caregiving and Evercare. By contrast, actual paid expenses for homecare and nursing home services totaled $158 billion annually -not even amounting to half the cost of the caregivers’ “free” services.
Additionally, almost half of of the caregivers indicate they have used up much of their own savings. The out-of-pocket expenses a caregiver contributes add up to more than $5,500 a year, according to an AARP update, Valuing the Invaluable: The Economic Value of Family Caregiving.
Often the physical stress outweighs the financial strain on a caregiver.
- Three out of four caregivers report not going to the doc as often themselves (National Alliance for Caregiving and Evercare)
- About 6 in 10 experience worse eating and exercise habits (National Alliance for Caregiving and Evercare)
- 40 to 70% have symptoms of depression (according to one study) which can take 10 years off a caregiver’s life, says another.
Helpful tips when you’re a caregiver
When you become a caregiver, realize that you are not alone. Check out this infographic of 10 tips for action as well as another website for resources.
If you need a break, you might find a respite provider at Respite Across the Lifespan, 402-559-5735.
Helpful tips when you’re a caregiver
Don’t know where to begin to find services for someone you are caring for? Start your search at Benefits.gov or the National Council on Aging, according to AgingCare.com, which suggests checking these sources:
- Social Security
- Administration on Aging
- Department of Veterans Affairs
- U.S. Department of Justice
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration
- U.S. Senators and Representatives for your state (may have specialists in elder affairs http://www.senate.gov and http://www.house.gov)
- Area Agency on Aging (Iowa resources can be found here.)
Have you had a caregiving experience you’d like to share?