If you’re the primary caregiver for an older adult[1. “Caregiver stress,” https://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-caregiver-stress-burnout.asp], you know that the acts you perform for them are selfless examples of love and devotion. Although it can be a challenge to take on these responsibilities as well as your own, you may believe you have a filial or moral obligation to do so. Or perhaps you’re under the impression that family-provided care is cheaper than professional care.
However, the true costs of senior caregiving are often hidden under the surface and may even involve aspects you never considered.
You’ve probably already spent a fair amount of money taking care of your loved one and may plan on spending even more. Your hard-earned savings may be going to both incidental and major expenses.
It’s not only your savings, but your earning level that can be negatively affected by caregiving. It’s not uncommon for primary caregivers to reduce their hours, leave a job, or even take an early retirement they can’t afford. Even leaving the workforce temporarily can make re-entry difficult—and at a lower pay scale. This may have the drawback of reducing social security and retirement benefits as well.
Both your physical and mental health can take a hit when you’re caregiving. This can be in the form of stress, frustration, reduced productivity, physical pain, and increased healthcare costs—at the same time your earnings may be reduced (see above).
Time can be a hard thing to quantify in terms of loss, but it’s definitely there nonetheless. You’ve probably spent countless hours—adding up to weeks and even months—looking after your loved one. And although you may feel it’s time well-spent, it’s not time you have to spend if the tasks involved are too much. There are ways to both show devotion to your loved one and do other things that make life worth living.
Cut the Costs of Caregiving by Getting Support
Despite how expensive senior caregiving can get in terms of time, money, health, and more, there are ways to cut costs. The most effective of these may be paid home care, where a professional agency performs some or all of the tasks you’re presently burdened with. Although some clients worry about the expense, there are ways to pay for home care.[2. “Ways to pay for home care,” https://www.caring.com/articles/how-to-pay-for-in-home-care] And even if you or your loved one must shoulder an initial outlay of funds, you get the value back in so many ways. Just consider how much your time, earnings potential, and physical and mental health are worth. Often, you can’t even begin to put a price on them.
Long-term Effects of Unsupported Caregiving
By now, it’s easy to see the long-term, negative effects of unsupported caregiving. What happens when you’re no longer able to stand the strain? There’s a good chance your entire family will be impacted. It’s like when flight attendants tell you that, in the event of an emergency, you must put on your own mask first before offering others assistance.
Think of the consequences if you’re no longer able to help the older adult in your life because your own health is failing. Or if you can’t bring home an income to your immediate family (because you quit your job to become a full-time caregiver)? You may only be feeling the short-term effects now, confident you can handle them (though you’re beginning to struggle). But it could be only a matter of time until they catch up with you, and you’re drowning in a sea of overwhelm.
You May Already Be Feeling the Costs of Senior Caregiving
If you recognize yourself in one or more of the scenarios above, then you may already be feeling the hidden costs of senior caregiving. Think hard about how this has already affected you and your family so far. There has never been a better time to address these issues, since the price you pay for caregiving is likely to rise over time. Consider getting a home health aide (or other means of support) to reduce your burden today.
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home care for older adults. Contact us to find out more.