The True Cost of Caregiving
When loved ones age, fall ill, or become disabled, family members often take on the responsibility of caregiving. While this is a noble pursuit, it can come at a high cost. Before you write off professional care, consider all of the costs associated with the job.
Financially, you may automatically jump to the conclusion that family care is more cost-effective than professional care. To accurately assess the financial cost, however, you must consider hidden costs that you, as a caregiver, may endure. If you stop working or reduce your hours to care for a loved one, you may experience career-impacting costs:
- Lost wages. Whether you take off an extended period of time to help your loved one recuperate or lower your hours to accommodate your new schedule, you are losing valuable income. Over the long-term, you may also start to lose any benefits you receive that enable you to care for a loved one.
- Rising medical costs. Caregiving takes a toll on your health—particularly if you try to balance it with work and other areas of life. You may spend more on personal healthcare costs during this time, adding to the balance.
- Lost opportunities. The more time you spend away from the workforce, the more of a hit your career may take. Finding a new job later or losing out on savings opportunities and retirement benefits could affect your financial security in the future.
When you consider these hidden costs, you may start to see that staying home with a loved one is not as cost-effective as you once thought.
Emotional and Physical Costs
Money aside, caregiving is both emotionally and physically taxing. The activity is a full-time job, particularly for loved ones who are increasingly reliant on outside help. You may sacrifice the opportunity to socialize with friends, exercise, and engage in self-care activities that help people maintain balance. Over time, these costs can create bitterness and resentment among even the most devoted caregivers. Nobody wins when caregivers feel trapped in their roles.
Finding a Compromise
Unfortunately, you cannot currently receive payment for taking care of your own loved one—even if it is a full-time job. Some organizations have suggested solutions addressing the growing need for caregivers, including family-friendly job policies, expanded funding for caregiving programs, and tax credits.
Until relief recommendations become a reality, consider creating a balance between personal and professional help. You do not have to put your loved one in a nursing home or accept full responsibility on your own. Find the right answer for you and your family with these tips:
- Talk with your employer. If your employer understands your predicament, you may have an opportunity to learn about existing policies that promote caregiving or to negotiate an arrangement that works for you both.
- Explore professional caregiving opportunities. Caregiving is an exploding industry, and solutions constantly arise that blend personal and professional care. You may find that paying for a caregiver a few times a week gives you the freedom you need to maintain your own health and wellness.
- Ask for help. Talk with your family about rotating duties, ask your friends for their solutions with loved ones in need, and go to a support group for caregivers. Education and emotional support can make this difficult time easier to manage.
- Take some time off. Schedule mandatory self-care time. Caregiving may be your new role, but it should never become your identity. Exercise, take breaks, and find your own stress-reducing routine.
Caregiving is a new reality for many adult children today. Finding the right blend of support and care is crucial to protecting your loved one and yourself. If you have any legal questions about the changing role of caregiving, call us today.