Family caregivers sacrifice their own financial security, family time, and health to provide uncompensated care for elderly or disabled family members who need help. Over 40 million Americans are thrust into the role of family caregiver, sometimes unexpectedly. These caregivers provide more than 34 billion hours of uncompensated care each year for a total value of more than $470 billion a year. It is important to take time to find ways to protect and help the caregivers in our lives who make this enormous and valuable sacrifice for their loved ones. Here are some ways you can help the family caregivers in our lives:
Help a Family Caregiver Make a Plan.
If you expect that a friend or family member will need to become a family caregiver (perhaps they have an ailing spouse or an elderly parent), suggest they make a plan. Family caregivers can develop this plan with the help of professionals in their communities. Elder law attorneys can help a family create a plan to ensure that an elder, sick, or disabled loved one has the necessary estate planning documents in place to allow a family member to help them. An elder law attorney will also be able to assist families in developing plans to access community and public benefits to support those who need care.
Help a Family Caregiver Find Resources.
Becoming a family caregiver can be overwhelming and isolating. There are national, state, and local resources that can help make the job less difficult. AARP has various resources for family caregivers. Geriatric care managers can assist family caregivers identifying the needs of a loved one and finding local resources that can help meet those needs. Local elder law attorneys also know of many state and local resources that can assist family caregivers in meeting the needs of those they assist.
Help them Carry the Burden.
Family caregivers make significant sacrifices in their personal lives to provide care for a loved one. Caregiving can be overwhelming and exhausting and caregivers often neglect themselves because they run out of time to care for themselves. This makes family caregivers vulnerable to depression, stress, and anxiety disorders. It also increases their risks for serious health problems. Reminding a family caregiver to “take care of themselves” is not enough. You must offer tangible help. This help can be as simple as providing a premade meal, offering to run errands, or cleaning house. Relieving a family caregiver of a regular task such as grocery shopping or yard work can give them time to relax, even if just for an hour.
If your family is looking for ways to help the caregivers in your family or you need assistance in developing a caregiving plan, contact our office or your local elder law attorney. A meeting can be arranged via telephone or video conference to accommodate the caregiver’s schedule.