As we get older, one of the things we have to think about is caregiving. Not just caring for ourselves, but being caregivers to other persons. While we might initially think of caregiving as taking care of our parents or a spouse, it’s also possible that caregiving could extend to our siblings or other relatives. In fact, it’s possible that we might provide caregiving to a person who isn’t a blood relative but nonetheless a person very dear to us.
According to AARP, over 40 million people provide caregiving in some form. This translates to approximately 17% of today’s workforce. Because caregiving is such an important topic that affects a lot of people, AARP recently conducted a two-part webcast on “Tips for Working Caregivers from Working Caregivers”. It was a very interesting session that offered some things to consider. My big takeaway from the first session was to think about creating a caregiving guide. I can see where this isn’t one of those things that you should hold off until you need it.
- Be prepared for the possibility of caregiving. You know your family situation. Is there a family member that might need caregiving at some point? Has there been discussions about how caregiving will happen? And who will be primarily responsible for it? All questions that are better asked and answered before the need arises.
- Talk to your employer. During the AARP webcast, they said that over 56% of caregivers have to make accommodations in their work, especially when it comes to time. Talk with your manager. Let them know your needs and give them some reassurances that your performance will not suffer as a result.
- Research caregiving-friendly companies. If you’re considering a job change, look for employers that offer caregiving benefits. At minimum, look for employers that are open to offering flexible schedules. Additional benefits might be available through health care insurance or the company’s employee assistance program (EAP).
- Understand the legal aspects. At some point, caregiving might include being responsible for the care recipient’s financial affairs and medical directives. Make sure any required legal documents are in place and that, as a caregiver, you have the confidence of everyone around.
- Set expectations with care receivers. I think this is an important one. Care receivers need to understand some of their responsibilities, like possibly wearing a monitoring device. Or if you’re a caregiver and work from home, that you aren’t there to entertain the receiver. Boundaries are important in care giving.
- Use technology to your advantage. This is another aspect that applies to both caregivers as well as care receivers. Care receivers might enjoy some freedom by learning how to use apps like Facetime, where they can quickly check-in and let a caregiver know they’re okay. Or allowing an internal camera to offer some peace of mind.
- Discuss finances. According to AARP, the average out of pocket expense for a caregiver is $7000/annually. While it’s possible that some community resources can provide financial assistance, there should be a discussion about how expenses will be handled.
- Get some medical education. You don’t have to earn a medical degree, but you do want to know some basics like how to move people from a wheelchair to a car and vice versa. The good news is that AARP offers some videos on how to handle everyday activities in their “Home Alone” section of their website.
- Be open about how you feel. Caregiving can make you feel overwhelmed and frustrated. It can also be an honor and very fulfilling. You’ll find that there are other individuals in the same position. Just having someone else to talk with can be a huge stress reliever.
- Learn how to ask for help when you need it. And, how to accept help when others offer it. Talk with the care recipient and your support system about what you’re prepared to do (and possibly not do). And don’t ever forget to take care of yourself. In return, consider paying it forward and helping others who are going through the same thing.
Caregiving responsibilities aren’t something to be taken lightly. No one wants to be hashing out details when a loved one is sick or in desperate need of care. The best time to talk about caregiving is now.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the streets of Atlanta, GA