Being a Caregiver

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that my mom’s sick and she’s been sick for a very long time. Since early this year, her health has been deteriorating very quickly.
We’re just waiting for our lease to be over to move my mom in with us in a new place. So while all the crazy things are going through my mind, I came across an article from Wall Street Journal called Survivor Tips for Caregivers . It talks about how by 2030, number of potential caregivers available for every person who is at least 80 years old will decline. In 2010, the ratio of caregivers (age 45-64) to those most likely will need long term care (80 and over) was 7 to 1 and it’ll decrease to 4 to 1 by 2030. By 2050, the ratio will drop to less than 3 to 1. Caregivers also spend $8,080 a year on average on out-of-pocket expenses with 1/3 providing 30 or more hours of care each week. Some people have to cut back hours from their work and that not only cuts the wage amount, but the retirement fund and other benefits. Their whole life style has to be downsized to fit this extra expense as well.

On average, more women take up the role of caregivers and spend more time and money doing it. But it’s not all bad news. The article’s giving a few tips to not get overwhelmed and have some back up plans to make it a little easier being a caregiver for your loved ones. Below is the list from the article.

1. Take a break: This is an important one. These are long-term cares and you really need to pace yourself to not get burnt out. Some assisted-living and skilled-nursing facilities offer respite-care programs where you can check your older adults in for the weekend while you take that time to get away or relax. Also try contacting social services agencies, non-profit groups and long term care providers who can help find respite programs.

2. Hire a pro: Geriatric-care managers are typically social workers or registered nurses by training who can help with the assessment of your loved one’s needs and make arrangements for in-home or facility care. Personally, my mom’s adult care program director has been helping us with finding health aids, doctor’s appointments, and other services. He’s become our family friend and I value his input and help tremendously.

3. Use life insurance: I don’t have personal experience since my mom doesn’t have life insurance, but the article points out that instead of getting it as an inheritance later, you could sell the policy to life-settlement firms to pay for long-term care. Of course, the amount you’ll receive depends on the policy holder’s age and health status, not to mention the pretty good chunk of money they’ll keep. The article also points out that this option still beats surrendering a policy to access government benefits, but do more research on your own to make sure this is the right step for you.

4. Check employee assistance program: Some companies offer free information and referral services for caregivers and some provide caregiving coaches. Check with your company and if it’s available, use this resources to get started and stay on track.

Let me add a few of my own that I got from personal experience.

5. Don’t feel guilty: Sometimes I feel guilty having too much fun when my mom can’t do anything. I know she doesn’t want me to feel that and if you see her, you’ll think she’s the happiest person in the world. She’s laughing, smiling, and bragging about her children with such pride. But I still feel that time to time knowing what she’s going through.
Other times I feel guilty I’m not doing enough for her or I’m not doing it right. No matter the reason, feeling guilty is not helpful or healthy for anybody. So don’t and I’m going to try not to feel guilty either.

6. Get documents ready: You hear it all the time about estate planning. But majority of Americans still don’t have a will or other estate planning documents set up. If your estate isn’t big or complicated, maybe you don’t need to go through an expensive attorney and just purchase a software to do it yourself. I still didn’t get it done for my mom either (feeling guilty again). But I’m planning to do it in the next couple of weeks. We’re just going to do a simple will, power of attorney, and healthcare directive.

7. Delegate: You can’t do it on your own. If you have other siblings, cousins, or friends that can and are willing to help out, use their help. I have hard time with this too, but this is not a 100m sprint. This is a marathon. I need to make sure I’m pacing myself and be able to keep my energy and spirit up for a long time. Any help I can get, I’ll take it and you should too.

8. Have a support system: It’s been more emotionally difficult than anything else in my own experience. Have a support system for yourself. Whether it’s a friend you can relax and have fun with or a pastor at church who’ll pray for you and with you or a therapist who will listen to you and talk things through, you need some kind of support network to keep you sane.

If you currently are or will be a caregiver to your loved one, try to plan ahead as much as possible and hang it there. Any other tip you’d like share about being a caregiver?

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9 thoughts on “Being a Caregiver

  1. This is a great write-up, Michelle – super informative, especially your own list. I do agree about the estate planning – before I would always get mad at my parents because they would hand me the documents before a long trip (just felt like weird omen vibes or something), but I’ve now realized they’re helping tremendously by doing so. Your mom sounds like she has such a strongly positive and happy spirit – my prayers are with her, you, and your family, Michelle.

    • I know what you mean. But your parents are very smart doing that. I’ve been thinking about doing all the documents for a long time, but somehow I felt like I was going to jinx it by getting them ready.
      And yes my mom is absolutely adorable and lovable. I’m not saying this because she’s my mom, but everyone just falls in love with her when they meet her.
      Thank you so much Anna. You’ve been so sweet and supportive throughout my whole (7 month) blog life. I value your friendship very much.

      • Aww, I value your friendship, too, girl! And that doesn’t surprise me about your mom – like attracts like, and people are drawn to people who are happy. 🙂

    • For me, this happened very unexpectedly and very early when I was 21. Not being prepared for it and having no knowledge was hard for me and my mom. Try to prepare for it and have some kind of plans at least thought out. Hopefully, you’ll have smoother time transitioning. Good luck~

  2. I can’t even imagine what you’ve been going through all this time and what kind of strength this takes. All your advice is indeed great and so true.

    I have a friend whose mother got sick of Alzheimer’s 3 years ago. She was barely 50, so it came as a shock to my friend and it was in a bad moment (her father died half an year ago). She did HER BEST to care for her mother, but she deteriorated so fast she needed full-time support. This while my friend had to go work (to pay for everything) too. So she had to decide to take her mother to a specialized hospital and, while it’s costly, she can at least go and work regularly and also visit her mother every weekend.

    She felt very guilty, just as you mentioned, but it was impossible to do anything. Her losing her job would have meant no more money for anything and her mother is now well cared for by people who are trained to do this.

    Best of luck with your mother and thanks for sharing this info. It surely helps anyone who’s in your situation and feeling overwhelmed.

    • I’m sorry about your friend. But she was very brave with her decision even though it was hard.
      The ironic thing about my situation is that I get comforted and encouraged the most by my mom and she’s the sick person who sometimes doesn’t even know who I am. She’s been so strong throughout this whole time which has been over a decade.
      Thank you for your kind words~

  3. Some great advice here Michelle thank you. My dad is caregiver to my mum who’s now wheelchair bound. It’s really hard for him and he could certainly benefit from taking some rest from time to time. He has a close support network which is good. Your mom sounds so brave and I think you are too, thanks for sharing this.

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