Baby Boomers provide countless hours of assistance to their elderly parents at no cost month after month and they pay with losses that extend well beyond their bank accounts. They often have to forego the activities that bring joy and richness to their lives. More than the personal cost of care-giving; it’s the value that they bring to the lives of their parents that matter at the end.
Caregivers pay with losses that extend well beyond their bank accounts because they often forego the activities that they would otherwise enjoy, like meeting friends for dinner, going out to the movies or taking family vacations. They pay with their time, the loss of professional opportunities and the erosion of personal relationships that often result in isolation.
Sometimes, otherwise healthy loved ones need a short dose of care as they recover from an acute medical episode like a broken leg. Usually loved ones are on a path of steady decline with cascading assistance needs. Some caregivers sacrifice large chunks of their own lives as they help their parents and other family members or friends peacefully make their transitions. Caregivers can pay with their own health and well-being, in fact, there are even some caregivers that pay for their acts of care with their very lives.
If you have to care for an aging parent or grandparent, you can decrease the personal and economic costs of care-giving. You can start with proactive planning rather than reactive responding, because planning saves money. Think about it from a different perspective based on your experiences of going to the grocery store with and without a shopping list. Planning also helps to minimize personal wear and tear, plus it decreases stress. You’ll feel much better when you know your options and develop back-up plans before you jump into a challenging project.
5 Tips to Help Cut the Cost of Caregiving:
- Start the Conversation Today:
We have tremendous cultural resistance to the recognition of aging, disability and death. Just as the first few steps uphill are the hardest, so, too, you may meet the greatest resistance simply starting the conversation about their possible need for care. You can talk to them about life and the reality that no one lives forever, as much as we all wish that were possible. Ask them about their thoughts & what plans they have about how they want to enjoy their golden years?”
- Create a Plan:
Talk with your parents or grandparents about their ideal plan if they are no longer able to care for themselves. Then, start to work toward that plan proactively. You can investigate long-term care insurance. Draw up the appropriate legal documents, and find out who would make medical choices if they were not able to make them on their own, along with some guiding principles for the choices. One way to anticipate and limit parental resistance is to talk to them and help them understand that by making plans in the event of a health complication or death, it will enable the entire family to have peace of mind.
- Use Personal & Community Resources:
Make care-giving a family job by having each member contribute. Even children can help make grandma’s life special with drawings and regular phone calls. Identify services that make your job as a caregiver easier, and if you and your parents live in the same community, check with friends, neighbors and local organizations to learn about services and resources that will make your job easier. You can find out which senior centers in your community has social events, transportation, and even volunteer opportunities for them to get involved in.
- Research Cost-Savings Tips:
This might mean something as simple as ordering generic medication or regularly inquiring about senior discounts. But most cost savings opportunities aren’t as obvious, some states will pay for phones for hearing, visually or mobility limited seniors or fund home safety improvements. Caring for your loved one will be a challenge, however, by finding discounts for products and services that will help make their life easier, will help cut cost for both you and them. You don’t have to re-invent the wheel, there are tons of resources out there for seniors and caregivers, you just need to tap into it.
- Take Care of Yourself:
You will be able to provide the best care for your parent or grandparent when you’re at your best, so get good nutrition, enough sleep and regular exercise. Manage your stress and do a little something every day to nurture your soul. You need to understand that you’re at increased risk for anxiety, depression, and weakening your immune system. Talk to your doctor if you see worrisome signs such as problems sleeping, changes in appetite or loss of interest in activities you enjoy.
Despite the costs, most people who have cared for an aging loved one say that they received much more than they gave. Most say they would do it again, and many do. Sometimes the question is not the personal cost of care-giving; it’s the value that you bring to the lives of others that matter at the end. What personal cost are you willing to pay for the privilege of helping those who welcomed you into the world to enjoy their golden years and travel the road of illness with love and dignity?