Becoming a caregiver
Caring for a family member or close friend is one of the most important roles you’ll play. As you take on the role of a caregiver, having a good framework to help guide both you and your loved one will make the process easier.
Prepare for the role of caregiving
- It’s never too early to talk with family members about what-if scenarios. For example, what if your parents need to come live with you? That might require changes to your home to make sure that it’s safe for them.
- Or what if they live far away and you need to visit them often to make sure they are being cared for properly? It’s important to consider how that may affect your career, what the cost of regular travel might be, and what strain that may place on your family.
- Depending on your family history, you may want to begin saving now for potential caregiving costs. It’s best to avoid being in a position where you have to quit your job or reduce your hours at work, if possible. This could leave you paying for your own health insurance and even losing out on other benefits, such as saving for retirement or Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts.
- Learn more with the AARP caregiving planning guide for families.
See what professional support is available
- Visiting nurses and home health aides can help fill in gaps in your caregiving efforts.
- Consult a professional. Caring for a loved one can be emotional and financially straining, and it can become even more complex when health issues come into play. A nurse or social worker can help you determine what is needed, find services, and arrange and monitor the care. Check the Eldercare Locator, managed by the Administration on Aging, for local caregiving services. (Call 800.677.1116 or visit eldercare.gov.)
- Look for resources at your workplace. Many employers offer Employee Assistance Programs, which can help connect you to professionals and services in your community.
Look into obtaining power of attorney
- This legal document enables you to make legally binding decisions on someone else’s behalf and to access his or her financial accounts.
- If he/she is unable to grant you power of attorney, a conservatorship could be an option. This is a court-ordered arrangement used when someone can’t communicate with others or sign documents.
- Learn more about the importance of designating a power of attorney.
Take care of yourself
- If you do become a caregiver, don’t forget to take care of yourself. There is a lot of stress with becoming a caregiver. Find time to relax, exercise and sleep, or find other ways to reduce stress.
- When you take time for yourself, you often return to your responsibilities feeling renewed and will provide better care for your loved one.
- Take advantage of community services such as adult day care or respite care, which can make a huge difference.
- Look for support groups. Not only will it help to relate with others in similar situations, but support groups can be powerful resources for sharing ideas and strategies.
- Learn about other resources from AARP.
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