Friday, April 30, 2021

Caregiving Tips Can Reduce Stress on Caregivers

Millions of Baby-Boomers, as well as younger adults, are not only trying to take care of their own lives while staying involved with their children, their jobs, and other responsibilities, but they are also caregivers for a spouse, parent, relative, or a friend who has a serious chronic health condition.  Some of the people who are providing this help may not even think of themselves as caregivers. However, you are a caregiver if you drive someone to dialysis, chemo sessions, physical therapy or medical appointments, help an ill relative or friend with their grocery shopping, or care for someone who has dementia, COPD, or is recovering from a stroke, heart attack or surgery.  

When the situation arises, most of us are willing to care for a loved one, even though it can require a huge amount of our time and effort as we strive to meet their physical needs, shop for them, dispense their medicine and, when they do not live with us, visit them and care for them in a separate home. Whether the patient lives with you or lives in their own home, providing this aid can be exhausting, time consuming and, in some cases, even fatal for the caregivers who may die of stress related illnesses. In addition, have you thought about the financial cost of being a caregiver?  While you may not be able to completely relieve yourself of everything involved in caregiving, are you aware of some of the ways you can reduce your stress?

Although you may feel it is your responsibility to "suck it up" and do whatever is necessary to take care of a relative, you may actually be doing more than necessary and putting your own health and financial security at risk. If you are a Baby Boomer caregiver, you are in your 60s and 70s and may have physical or health limitations of your own.  The added stress of caring for another person can feel overwhelming.  

It is important that every caregiver assess the emotional, physical and financial impact of caregiving on themselves and other members of their family.  They also need to come up with a practical plan that will relieve some of the burden, while making sure their relative is not neglected.  It is usually possible to do both.

Common Financial Costs of Being a Caregiver

According to an article in the AARP Bulletin in November 2019, being a caregiver could cost you financially in several ways.  As you read this list, you may begin to realize how important it is to use some of the suggestions listed later in this article.

*  About 78% of caregivers spend an average of $7,000 a year out-of-pocket for the care of a loved one.  This can include money spent on things like adult diapers, over-the-counter medications, special food, and extra gasoline for their car. 

*  The cost can rise to as much as $12,000 a year if the patient or family member you are helping lives at least an hour away.

*  This financial cost often reduces the caregiver's retirement savings by as much as 25%, because this becomes money which does not go into their own retirement savings account and does not grow, as it would have if it had been invested or deposited into a bank or investment account.

*  The caregiver's financial situation may be worsened even more dramatically, because about 23% of caregivers take on additional debt in order to cover their out-of-pocket expenses.  Sometimes they do not even notice their rising credit card bills or other borrowed money until the situation gets out-of-hand.

*  Caregivers often lose out financially in other ways, too, by causing them to earn a lower income as a result of their responsibilities.  On average, they tend to work at paid jobs about 80 minutes less each day. This not only reduces their income, but it also makes them less likely to get promotions, which in turn lessens the amount of future pensions and Social Security benefits they will receive.  In essence, they are sacrificing their own future retirement in order to care for a beloved family member who may be retired.

*  Nearly one-third of caregivers have left a job or reduced their hours because of the stress of their caregiving responsibilities.  The repercussions of this not only means less income, but often the loss of employer-provided benefits such as health insurance or a 401(k) plan with matching contributions.  If they retire early, that can also reduce their retirement benefits. 

However, the financial sacrifices are not the only reason why caregivers need to learn ways to reduce the burden on themselves and their family.

Caregivers Often Ignore Their Own Needs

In addition to devoting so much of their time and money to the care of another person, caregivers often risk their own health and well-being, and that of their immediate family.   Here are some typical sacrifices caregivers sometimes make.  Most caregivers have cut more than one of the items listed below.

*  About 37 percent say they have reduced their spending on household maintenance.

*  Approximately 11 percent admit they have been forced to spend less on their children's education, which may force their children to take out larger college loans in the future.  This passes the financial burden on to another generation.

*  About 25 percent have had to reduce their spending on groceries for their family.

*  Unsurprisingly, 30 percent say they have spent less than normal on clothing and personal items.

*  Roughly 12 percent have cut back on the money they would normally spend on utilities, including heat and electricity, which could also endanger their own health or that of other family members, if the cuts become too extreme.

*  Caregivers also report sleeping less at night and about one-third admit they have reduced their own dental care, and cut down on routine visits to the doctor, as well as getting medical care when they are sick or injured  Many have neglected to fill a needed prescription for themselves, or get a recommended test or treatment. 

Caregiver Stress Can be Fatal

As a result of the above-mentioned cuts in personal care, a 1999 study found that caregivers have a 63 percent higher mortality rate than non-caregivers, and according to Stanford University, 40 percent of Alzheimer's caregivers die from stress-related disorders before the Alzheimer's patient dies.

We all know that stress can kill us.  In addition to worrying about the health and care of another person, many caregivers become the object of the patient's anger, moodiness, and irritability. While the caregiver may spend hours a day driving, running errands, shopping and helping the patient in many ways, they may feel that their efforts are not only unappreciated, but may cause them to be subjected to continual complaints and hostility. Some caregivers report feeling that, no matter how much they do, it never seems to satisfy the patient.

While we may not be able to change our loved one's health situation, or even their attitude, there are actions nearly any caregiver can take to lessen the burden and help them protect their own health and finances.  

Try Not to Handle the Caregiver Burden Alone

Although many caregivers do not reach out for help, there are a number of resources available to reduce the financial and physical burden on the primary caregiver.  While this assistance may not solve all the problems, any help at all could make a big difference both for the caregiver and their family.  In addition, taking advantage of the help which is available in your community might even improve the quality of care for the patient.  Simple steps such as ordering groceries online, arranging medical transportation so you do not have to do all the driving, asking for assistance with the patient at airports or in medical facilities, and taking time out for yourself can make a big difference.

You may find it helpful to read one of these books on caregiving, to give you fresh ideas and moral support. (Ad)  Some simple changes could improve the situation for both the caregiver and the patient. 

Practical Ways for Caregivers to Get Relief 

Talk to your loved one and ask how much help they actually want and need.  They may be able to do more than you realize.  If they do not live with you, it may be easier for them to be independent if you make a few modifications to their home and help them out once a week by shopping for them, filling their pill containers, paying their bills and handling other issues which may be difficult for them.  In fact, as long as they are mentally competent, the patient may not even want you hovering over them all the time.  Make sure you have a clear understanding of the kind of help they actually want and need.  If they live in your home, they may even be willing and able to perform necessary chores such as dusting, watering the lawn, handling the laundry, helping with meal preparation, or doing the dishes.  This will make them feel needed and reduce the amount of work the caregiver is trying to do every day.  Appreciate whatever they are able to do, and allow them this way of helping to reduce your stress.

Get a personal home alarm system for someone with a serious chronic condition, so they can quickly and easily contact you or someone else if they fall, become acutely ill, or need emergency help.  You will worry much less, and they will be safer. You can find a variety of home alert systems (Ad) available here, including some that have wearable devices included. 

They come in a wide variety of brands, with different services available. In general, the person wearing the device only needs to push a button in order to be connected to a trained operator. The operator asks them if they need an ambulance, or if they just want the alert service to call a friend, neighbor or relative to assist them.  Some of the devices have fall indicators.  If the device detects that the person has fallen, and the patient does not respond when called, the operator can automatically call a caregiver or the paramedics.  This removes much of the worry felt by caregivers who are not with the patient 24 hours a day.  These systems are very helpful whether the patient lives in the same home as the caregiver or in a separate home.  It frees the caregiver to go to work, run errands, shop, visit friends, and comfortably spend time away from the patient, and will also lower caregiver stress.  

Install a home camera, such as a Nest Camera, (Ad) which is connected to an app on your cell phone, so you can virtually check on your loved one throughout the day.  This can give you even more peace of mind. One of our daughters even uses her camera to check on her cats!  You can reassure yourself that your loved one is eating, resting, and staying safe, without the need for you to be physically present.  A camera like this has made more than one caregiver feel more comfortable, and they double as security cameras!  You can install one in your own home, if the patient lives with you, or put in in the home of a fragile relative, wherever they may live. 

If you are a caregiver with a paid job, before you quit or cut back on your hours, see if there are any employee benefits designed to help caregivers.  In many places, you could be entitled to family leave or other assistance.  This can be particularly helpful if your loved one becomes particularly ill or needs to be hospitalized.  It would allow you to periodically to take off for a few day when necessary, without losing your job.

Go to the Family Caregiver Alliance at caregiver.org and print out a personal care agreement so that you have a clear agreement with the person who is receiving the care.  In some cases, they may be able to pay you for your caregiving services and a personal care agreement can spell out specifically what you will be doing for them.  If they are on Medicaid, for example, relatives or friends who are caregivers can sometimes be paid through that program, under certain circumstances.  This can also lessen the financial burden on the caregiver.  I know of at least one man who has been able to use this program to hire a young person to drive him to doctor appointments and the grocery store.  This has been very helpful, since driving has become very difficult for him. 

Ask family and friends if they can help with some of the responsibilities.  For example, even if you are doing the grocery shopping and filling their weekly pill containers, ask if there are relatives who can take some of the burden off of you by checking on the patient certain days of the week, preparing their meals, helping them shower or dress, etc.  Even getting help from others a couple of days a week can make it easier for you to remain at your paid job, feel less stressed, and enjoy time with your own family. 

See if there are any state or local services to help you.  Get all the help you can afford or that may be available in your community at little or no cost to you.  Here are some ideas:

*  You may be able to find paid housekeepers or caregivers who can help you a few days of the week;
*  You may be able to locate an adult daycare facility
*  Your loved one may be eligible for Meals on Wheels, which will reduce your responsibility for preparing all their meals.  This will be especially helpful if they do not live with you.
*  If there is a Senior Center in your area, they may be able to put you in touch with meal services and other resources to help you. Some even provide low cost lunches in a group setting.
*  If you need to go out of town, or wish to take a vacation with your family, you may also discover that local assisted living facilities in your area can provide affordable respite care for a loved one for a week or two.

Seek out whatever help is available in order to reduce your burden.  Some of it will be free or very low cost.  Certain local services, such as adult daycare or local senior centers, will give your loved one an opportunity to make friends and socialize with other people their own age.  Many senior centers have fun events such as Bingo, art programs, yoga for seniors, memory classes, health fairs, community lunches and more, which will keep them busy and give them something to do.  Often these programs are free or cost very little.

*  Websites which provide helpful information for caregivers are:

eldercare.acl.gov
caregiver.org
hhs.gov/aging/state-resources
shiptacenter.org
AARP.org/caregiving

Essentially, it is important to realize that you do not need to take on the full responsibility for caring for another person.  You do not need to sacrifice your own life, health and financial security.  There are programs available to help you, while making sure your loved one receives the care they need, and enabling them to get the most enjoyment possible out of their lives.  Make sure you explore all your options and take advantage of every resource you can find.  
 
Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.  Send your email address to the link, and you will receive a weekly email with the most current post.

If you are interested in learning more about common health issues as we age, Medicare, Social Security, financial planning, where to retire and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

You are reading from the blog:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo credit:  morguefile

2 comments:

  1. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said Boomers were taught to suck it up. More care givers need to seek assistance .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, most caregivers need to learn to accept all the help they can get. It can be exhausting to care for another person, and most caregivers are in their 50s, 60s, 70s or older themselves!

      Delete

Thank you for leaving a comment. Your thoughts and insights about retirement are always appreciated. However, comments that include links to other sites will usually not be published.