Giving your time and resources to loved ones brings feelings of delight and satisfaction while also attracting emotions of a heavy burden. Becoming a caregiver can be an extraordinarily taxing responsibility for many individuals, and therefore should not be taken lightly. Though you may do it out of love and respect and the desire to serve, it’s essential to properly prepare yourself prior to becoming a caregiver, as well as consistently watching your health in the process. There are two main areas of health that caregivers should be paying attention to as they prepare for and perform their duties: monetary health and bodily health.
In both your finances and time, caregiving can turn into an almost unbearable load without proper preparation. According to a publication by AARP, in 2013, 40 million Americans spent 37 billion hours caring for an adult with limitations. The estimated economic value of those hours is about $470 billion, all of which was not paid to those caregivers. According to another survey, half of the participating caregivers said they were relying on family funds to help cover caregiving costs and 40 percent said they spent at least 30 hours per week doing so.
The second area impacted is bodily health, including emotional, physical, and social implications. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA), the mental and emotional ramifications include higher levels of depression, anxiety, stress and frustration, due to the nature of their responsibilities. Regarding physical health, the FCA concluded that 11 percent of surveyed caregivers reported a worsened state of health, including “physical ailments” and “diminished immune responses.” Other physical influences included an “increased risk of heart disease” and being “less likely to engage in preventive health behaviors.”
Though this may seem doom-and-gloom, it’s important to understand what can occur without proper precautions before and during your time as a caregiver. Proper preparation may vary for each person, however, there are some general tips to consider as you make your decision:
Understand Your Duties
Make sure to understand all accompanying responsibilities of caregiving before accepting them. Setting expectations with your loved ones and with yourself is crucial for your and their future. Some of the duties of a caregiver include:
- Assisting with personal care (bathing, grooming, dressing, exercise)
- Food preparation
- Healthcare (medication, appointments, administering medicine)
- Supervision for safety
Though not all-encompassing, these points provide a basic understanding of some expectations of caregivers and extend the ability to evaluate your ability to accomplish said tasks on your own. Consider asking yourself these questions and you self-evaluate:
- “Am I physically able to handle lifting or carrying heavy materials or the person?”
- “Do I have reliable transportation should the need arise?”
- “Do I have a basic understanding of their health needs, including sicknesses and required treatments for each?”
Consider Your Financial Situation
After understanding your duties, put a price tag on everything you’ll be asked to do. Without an understanding of your current financial standing and where you may be with added expenses, you may end up in a difficult situation in the future. As a caregiver, there are many financial considerations to pay attention to. To address these properly, you may want to start by asking yourself questions such as:
- “How would my home/apartment be paid if I move in with my parent(s)”
- “Is the family okay with having [family member] reimburse me for the expenses I will incur, including living expenses, medical expenses, transportation, and food?”
- “How will the family make decisions about care? How will we decide on how their money is spent? Who will be in control of their finances?”
The responses to these questions (and others) will determine next steps. For example, you may not want to enter into massive amounts of debt to become a caregiver for your loved ones. Though you may feel it necessary, remember that this will add more stress to you, and those you care for.
Instead, you could consider a different way to manage your money that would aid in budgeting and relieve future stress. One possibility is using a mobile bank that would ease financial management from anywhere. Some of these banks provide features that can help individuals put more money into their savings account, manage health expenses from the doctor’s office and various other options. No matter your decision on financial management, consider having this be a top priority in order to take care of yourself and family.
Remember Your Physical Health
After planning your finances and ensuring your future financial stability, your own physical wellbeing should be addressed. As mentioned previously, caregiving can take a large toll on your mind and body. Therefore, ponder the required physical and emotional stresses that may be placed on you as you take on the role of caregiver with these questions:
- “Have I discussed plans with my family (partner, siblings, children, etc.) and are we all on the same page?”
- “Am I physically limited to weight, location or other aspects that could hurt me or my loved one?”
- “Do I have any illnesses that may be prolonged or worsened because of this decision?”
- Do I feel comfortable with the amount of time I will be taken away from my social life?
- “How would I handle the emotional stress and frustration of my decision?”
After answering these questions (and any others you deem fit), plan what you need to do in order to take care of yourself and manage future physical and emotional stresses. There are various self-care strategies that can easily be implemented into your daily and weekly routine that will help keep track of your personal health.
Caregiving and Life
No matter your decision and the extent to which you perform your duties, your priority should be taking care of yourself first in order to take care of your family. Slacking on self-care can lead to negative situations in the future, which could also have negative impacts on others. Remember that being personally healthy allows you to help those you’re caring for be strong as well.