The decision to act as a caregiver for an elderly loved one brings tremendous satisfaction, as well as responsibility. Acting as a caregiver causes you to consider things you may never not have dealt with before. Here are among the top concerns for persons serving as caregivers to an elderly family member.
A primary concern of caregivers is the financial impact of their new position. Acting as a caregiver can be very expensive. From the lost wages that can no longer be earned because of the inability to work to the extra expenses incurred for the care of your loved one, one needs to consider how the financial fallout from the role as caregiver will be addressed.
2. Time and its shortage
While acting as a caregiver is noble, one must realize that there will be very little free time as the elderly loved one’s condition deteriorates. Although there may not much strain on time at first, as your senior family member begins to need more care, the pool of available time will shrink by the day. It is crucial to begin to learn good time-management skills to enable coping as this situation progresses.
3. More responsibility
Caregivers are literally responsible for the health and well-being of another adult. Although you may have handled parenting with ease, this new type of responsibility is different. One should begin preparing for the added strain this will cause and assure that a good support network is in place so you have somewhere to turn when necessary.
4. Career impact
Many persons who leave work or cut back to part-time to provide care for an elderly loved one find that their careers never fully recover. Whether it is being passed over for a promotion, missing out on career-furthering projects, or being viewed as one who is not a team player, one may very well find that their careers are never the same. It is not uncommon for caregivers to discover that they are not able to re-enter the work force or not in the same profession or at the same level.
5. Health problems for the caregiver
Although caregivers may concern themselves with their elderly loved one’s health, studies show that long-term caregivers suffer in their own health. This is true even after the elderly loved one has passed on. Presumably, this is due to the higher stress that a caregiver experiences. Statistics show that caregivers are more likely to suffer significant health problems and therefore should carefully evaluate their situation to see if they are really able to pay this price.
6. Decreased opportunities to socialize
Caregivers may find that they have fewer opportunities to get out and mingle with friends and colleagues. The demands of caregiving can be extreme and if they are unable to find someone to provide a break, caregivers may find themselves unable to leave the elderly loved one for more than minutes at a time.
7. Marital strain
The stress from a caregiving position can take its toll on a marriage, especially if the marriage was already experiencing difficulties. Even if you do not experience elevated stress—and virtually every caregiver does—it is common to have significantly less time to spend with one’s spouse. This can have lasting consequences on a marriage.
8. Obtaining legal authorization to act on behalf of your loved one
As an elderly loved one ages, he or she will eventually lose the capacity to make decisions for himself or herself. Before this occurs, one should consult a lawyer on the steps that must be taken to legally act on behalf of your elderly family member. Ask about obtaining a power of attorney, a healthcare power of attorney, and other documents that allow you to make decisions concerning your elderly loved one’s finances, disposition of property and medical care and other situations.
One may wonder what you should do. The best thing is to address these concerns now before they become present issues. Talk to the family, your friends, and your attorney. Do what you can do now to establish the support network before it is needed. By doing so you will help yourself and the elderly loved one for whom you provide care.
Wittenberg-Lyles, Elaine, et al. “Reciprocal suffering: caregiver concerns during hospice care.” Journal of pain and symptom management 41.2 (2011): 383-393.
Dunkin, Jennifer J., and Cay Anderson-Hanley. “Dementia caregiver burden. A review of the literature and guidelines for assessment and intervention.” Neurology 51.1 Suppl 1 (1998): S53-S60.