The elderly are increasingly looking to their families to provide care for their needs. Unfortunately, as the growth of the elderly population outpaces the younger generation, there will be fewer caregivers available to take care of elderly loved ones. This will cause even greater stress on caregivers as they try to manage (often on their own) caring for a loved one while also managing their own family.
The typical family caregiver is a mid to late forties woman who works full-time and spends about 20 hours per week providing unpaid care for about 5 years to her mother (while incurring over $8000 per year in out of pocket expenses). Here are some strategies for families to better manage this stressful time:
1. Take a break. Your kidding yourself if you think you can handle this on your own without it affecting your health or your family. Respite programs or adult day care programs can provide a much needed break. Also, other family members should be expected to help – ideally at their home without causing a family conflict. Finally, it may be necessary to hire a caregiver on a limited basis.
2. Seek professional help. Agerontologist is often necessary to assess your loved ones needs and provide advice regarding the appropriate level of assistance. Also an elder law attorney should be consulted regarding the appropriate legal documents such as a durable power of attorney and a patient advocate.
3. Join a support group. Asupport group can be a wonderful resource and stress reliever for caregivers. Monthly meetings with other caregivers who are facing many of the same struggles can be extremely helpful especially for those caregivers who have just begun caring for a loved one.
4. Figure out the finances. The sooner you understand your loved one’s financial situation the better. As your loved one’s needs increase, it is important to know whether an assisted living or hiring caregivers are viable options. Also, considering other options such as Medicaid or Veterans benefits (if your loved one is a wartime veteran or the spouse of a veteran) is very important. Unfortunately, most people fail to plan ahead and are ill-prepared to help their loved one when they can no longer care for them.
Caring for a loved one is extraordinarily difficult even under the best of circumstances. Don’t assume it will somehow be any different for you – see an experienced elder law attorney today.