Tips for working caregivers to find the balance
Guest post by Pam Nelson, VP Genworth
Historically, family members and friends have taken on the role of primary caregiver for loved ones in need of long-term care, often not thinking twice about the selfless act. But the rising cost of care and caregiving responsibilities can be daunting to families, especially for those who may not have adequately planned for a potential long-term care* event. For example, according to a recent Genworth study, “Beyond Dollars, A Way Forward,” one-third of caregivers provide 30 or more hours of care per week and on average, can spend $8,080 in out-of-pocket expenses.
Dedicating this amount of time and money can take a toll on the caregiver and create a ripple effect that can impact their relationships with family and friends, as well as their careers. For those who take on the selfless act of caregiving, it is important to ensure that your own needs are addressed, and you do not become consumed by stress.
Build a Team
Caregivers need to build a team – siblings, spouses, adult children, and neighbors, who can help share the responsibilities of caregiving so that their careers and lives are not negatively impacted. Genworth’s 2013 Take Note and Talk Care study found that six-of-ten caregivers (59 percent) work while providing care and nearly 50 percent believe they lost income due to long-term care events, resulting in an estimated loss of nearly 40 percent of their income. With these startling statistics in mind, having a plan in place to help manage the responsibilities of caregiving before a long-term care event occurs is critical.
Know Your Options
Caregivers or care recipients who did not make plans for long-term care are more likely to indicate they have less time because of a long term care event compared to those who did have one in place (54 percent vs. 41 percent, respectively) according to the above study. However, there are a variety of service models that cater to both the caregiver and care recipient, allowing the needs of the recipient to be met, while the caregiver gets back some coveted free time.
For example, home care is one option. This allows care recipients to live in their own homes while receiving quality care from a home health aide. Another option is adult day care, which can offer a much needed break to caregivers. This type of care provides services at community-based centers for adults who need assistance or supervision during the day, but who do not need around-the-clock care. Depending on the situation, these care centers might include personal care, transportation, medical management, and therapeutic activities. The professional caregiving options mentioned above provide everyday caregivers with a break, allowing them to recharge and relax.
Being the primary care provider for a loved one is stressful as you’re not only assisting with personal needs but you are also juggling the daily medication routine, arranging medical care, providing a safe environment and managing finances. To help keep the level of stress at a minimum:
- Divide responsibilities across family members so no one person is handling everything. For example, have one person help with personal needs, another with doctor appointments, etc.
- Take time to communicate and assess how family members are doing emotionally.
- When you get the chance to take a break, get away for an occasional night out to keep life in perspective.
As caregivers, it is important to step back and plan for a long-term care event, especially when considering the impact on one’s career and financial goals. If a caregiver is stretched too thin, this can prompt a vicious cycle of physical, psychological, and financial anxiety. If you’re facing a similar situation, the following resources can help you navigate the long-term care system:
- Genworth’s Cost of Care Study provides the national median cost for long-term care nationwide
- ElderLawAnswers.com is an example of an online resource that can help you understand the nuances of government programs
Caring for a loved one is much more manageable when caregivers have resources and an outlet of support, and when they start recognizing and prioritizing their own needs.
Pam Nelson, Vice President for Customer Insights at Genworth, is responsible for designing research studies to better understand consumer financial needs so that Genworth can design products and services to help Americans achieve their financial goals. Pam also works closely with producers to better help them understand and meet their client’s financial needs.programs.
*Genworth 2013 Cost of Care Survey, conducted by CareScout®. 4/2013 CareScout is a Genworth company. The average cost for a private nursing home in 2013 was $83,950. Rates are based on private nursing home room. Average hourly rate for home health aides in 2013 was $19