Is Becoming a Family Caregiver Right for You?

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

In a recent poll, 90% of seniors said they wanted to remain in their homes and communities for life. Seniors dislike the idea of spending their last days in nursing homes or hospitals, which they consider impersonal. In addition, those who remain in their homes tend to enjoy better overall health. Unfortunately, many cannot afford professional at-home care so adult children often become their caregivers.

My husband's cousin is slowly recovering from Pacemaker surgery and is in the early stages of dementia. Since my husband is the family member who is the most local to his cousin (his 4 children live out of state, and one of them is all the way in San Francisco), some of the care has fallen on my husband although they do have in-home care for him.

Yesterday the Hubs' cousin's daughter-in-law was in town for a quick visit. We made plans to catch up with each other at the beach. We only had about two hours to chat, and much of our conversation revolved around care for her father-in-law and how it's been a struggle for his children to agree on the best course of action. She is a nurse and brought up a few excellent points that I thought I'd share since many of us are getting to the age where we are caring for aging parents.

There is a lot that needs to be taken into consideration when you make the decision to care for an elderly relative. The arrangement can change your relationships with other family members and could affect your health. It is also important to ensure the home where you provide care can accommodate the needs of the elderly and that financial arrangements are discussed and decided upon before making a commitment to provide care.

There Is a Financial Cost to Being a Caregiver
Becoming a family caregiver can be expensive and create a financial hardship. If you have a job, a family medical leave might allow you time off without jeopardizing your employment, but it will not provide income. Employers with more than 50 employees offer 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year under the Family Medical Leave Act. Alternatively, your company might let you switch to part-time work. Either choice reduces your income. If you choose to leave your job, you lose some Social Security benefits and will no longer contribute to your pension. You may be able to solve some of these problems by contacting an organization that can explain various ways of getting paid to take care of a family member.

You Need a Residence Equipped for Aging Parents
When seniors develop health issues or reach an advanced age, it is nearly impossible to give them the best care without special equipment. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities have the needed equipment but most homes don't. In fact, The Washington Post reports that a mere 1% of homes are ideally equipped for aging in place. A safe, comfortable home for the elderly includes a zero-step entrance and open design. Bathroom fixtures should be a convenient height and bathroom walls must include handlebars. Door openings should be at least 32 inches wide and have curbless shower stalls. Altering a home to suit the elderly can be very expensive.

Being a Caregiver Can Affect Your Well-Being
When adult children care for aging parents, the arrangement can strengthen family bonds. However, it may also create problems. You might feel resentment if you are doing most of the work while siblings live their lives as usual. If you are paid to be your parents' caregiver, relatives may feel shortchanged. Long-term caregiving also takes a personal toll. A MetLife study revealed that 31% of adult caregivers reported being stressed, depressed, or anxious. Over half said they lost time with family and friends. The best way to avoid becoming overwhelmed is to make a plan that allows time for yourself. Many organizations offer short-term respite services for family members who need a break from caregiving.

It is important to make a plan if you choose to become a caregiver for elderly relatives. You should consider any financial costs, including expenses required to equip a home for aging in place. Caring for elderly parents can also take a toll on mental, physical, and psychological health. It is very important that you regularly take breaks so you can attend to your own life.

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