Becoming a caregiver is a labor of love, and not a commitment to be taken lightly. While some find that becoming a caregiver may improve their relationship with their loved ones, many also report feeling caregiver burnout. If you’re thinking of becoming a family caregiver, take a moment to ask yourself a few key questions before taking on the role:
The average caregiver spends over 20 unpaid hours a week caring for their aging relative which can make it difficult if you also have a regular job. Examine your personal finances to see if they are enough to support you while you take on more caregiving roles.
It’s important to keep in mind how many unpaid hours a year you’ll spend caring for your loved one because, on average, older adults require 3.9 years of full-time care, but this can extend for much longer. One rule of thumb is to see if you can easily afford to live on no income for a year.
Most people don’t realize this but taking care of an aging loved one can be a very physical task. This is especially true if they need regular assistance with their basic needs, such as bathing and getting dressed, housekeeping, or even mobility. Are you prepared to take on the physical strain heavy lifting and constant bending may put on your body?
While you may be willing to take on the care for your aging relative, you may not physically be able to. If you don’t have the physical ability to lift your parent if they fall or if lifting them from a chair or bed without assistance is significantly strenuous, you may need to consider alternative care.
If your financial resources aren’t enough, or you’re unable to take on the physical demand of full-time caregiving, it may be time to consider alternative options. These include:
- Adult daycare centers
- Assisted living communities that offer respite care
- Help from family members, friends, or volunteers from the community
- Hiring an in-home caregiver
It may seem obvious, but the best way to set yourself up for success as a caregiver is to take care of yourself first. Whether it’s doctor’s visits, support groups, or caregiving resources like meals-on-wheels, protecting your physical and mental well-being should always be one of your highest priorities.
Another important tip is to establish and follow a comprehensive caregiving plan for your loved one. Unlike a doctor’s medical plan, caregiving plans usually focus on non-medical issues like physical and mental health, everyday activities, and legal and insurance matters. Making sure to follow a plan can help improve communication, avoid scheduling conflicts and reduce stress.