Practical Advice on Caregiving
The Cost and Toll of Caregiving is Enormous
From Someone Who has Been There
As one grows older, becoming a caregiver for a family member becomes a very real possibility. An estimated 46 million people, roughly 22% of the US population are providing care for an adult family member or friend.
As of 2004, according to a study by the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC), in conjunction with the Association for American Retired People (AARP), the annual value that caregivers provide is worth $257 Billion.
For as much collective value that caregivers provide, available resources and support for their services are considerably scant.
I have ten years experience as a parental caregiver. While I am not a health care or social services professional, I have been involved in many difficult situations that caregivers face.
What follows is some practical advice, from my own experience, for anyone who might be facing care giving responsibilities in the hopes that it helps:
- Some medical conditions require the constant presence of a medical facility. If it is reasonably possible, keep the affected family member at home. In many cases, home care can help improve the family member’s affect, which can help their condition.
- Develop a care plan and get as many family members and friends involved as possible. Delegate responsibilities accordingly and see to it that they are followed through. DO NOT let everything fall into the hands of one person because it is likely to overwhelm that person’s life and health, making matters of care even more challenging.
- Determine available financial resources for health care, whether at home or in a facility, is an extremely expensive proposition. If incomes of affected people are limited, some financial assistance programs are available though they have been slashed by the ravages of the recession. Check the state and local senior resources in your agency for specifics.
- It would be in the best interests of the affected family member to have their estate in order as much as possible so that fiscal and end of life details don’t get in the way of their health care. Also, appoint someone power of attorney can help make decisions for the affected family member should they not be able to speak for themselves.
- If the affected family member is regularly in and out of hospitals because of their condition, there should be an appointed medical power of attorney with an understanding of what should be done in the event that a resuscitation is needed. There is no particular right or wrong way. Decisions should be in line with the wishes of the affected family member.
- Caregivers should consider getting mental and spiritual help when possible. Often, the bulk of caregivers focus is on the needs of things physical. Don’t overlook the good that behavioral health or spiritual guidance (or both) can provide.
- Make the most of good days with the affected family member. It should go without saying but often gets lost in the details.
- Do not overlook the respite needs for caregivers. Often, primary caregivers are so overburdened with details that the overlook the responsibilities of their own life, which does no one any good.
- Regularly check online for caregiver resources. Health care constantly evolves and new information becomes available often.
- Take the best care of yourself whenever possible. Good health doesn’t solve all our problems but it sure puts us in the best position to handle what life throws our way.
- Don’t forget your sense of humor. It helps to have a chuckle, however minor. It can break the tension and help the stress.
- Finally, there is no road map to being a caregiver but it helps to be as organized as possible, and be effective in communications.
I wish you the best in your care giving situation.
 “Caregiving in the US” http://www.caregiving.org/data/04finalreport.pdf