Being a caregiver for your loved one can be a rewarding experience. It may also be hard to balance working full time, raising your children, and trying to save for their college tuition or retirement — all while caring for your aging parent. Are you ready?
What You’ll Need
Caregiving is a highly specialized skill, yet many of the estimated 34.2 million Americans who provide unpaid care to an aging family member have no training. Common caregiving tasks include assisting with basic needs, assessing medical needs, housekeeping, monitoring medication, offering companionship, preparing meals, and transporting.
Although many learn from trial and error, caregivers who have positive experiences tend to have certain skill sets or seek out professional support in these areas:
- Aging sensitivity
- Legal and financial powers
- Disease management skills
- Communicating and advocacy skills
- Organizational and coordination skills
- Planning and taking steps for later life security
You should also be aware of the cost of caregiving. When you become a caregiver there will inevitably be some financial costs associated with the decision. However, there are also opportunity costs, such as lost wages if you have to miss work, or a delayed or even changed career track due to extensive time away from work.
Who You’ll Need
Caregiving is — or at least it should be — a team effort. To avoid getting into a situation where it feels like there is a tug-of-war from multiple sides with you stuck in the middle, it is important that you have the support of the other people involved.
Family dynamics can become quite heated when members disagree about caregiving decisions, and some families experience rifts and broken relationships because of it. Among families who are caring for a loved one with dementia, siblings report strained relationships stemming from not having enough support in providing care as well as the overall burden of caregiving.
Family therapists, social workers, geriatric care managers, elder mediators, and faith leaders can help families through tough situations. Sometimes it takes an unbiased third party to resolve conflicts, focus conversations on the present, and find solutions that everyone can accept.
Still wondering if you’re ready to become a family caregiver? Complete this quiz to find out if you are prepared for the potential changes of caregiving and have the support you need so you don’t burn out.
Take the Quiz: Are You Ready to Be a Caregiver?