As a caregiver, you must manage your health and finances before supporting others! This guide will help you understand all you need to know about managing your life before helping others.
As per statistics, 17% (one in six) of the American workforce is a caregiver to an older adult, a disabled relative, or a loved one. In thousands of surveys done across America, it has also been noticed that lower-income and less-educated Americans are more likely to become caregivers.
The life of a caregiver comes with many challenges, but none are as close to taking care of oneself first. As easy as it sounds, managing your health and finances while caregiving is extremely difficult, albeit important. Thus, this guide will help you learn about taking your care first before extending your support to others.
Who Is a Caregiver?
Caregivers are different for different people. In the simplest sense, a caregiver is a close friend, a family member, a colleague, or anyone responsible for a loved one, especially if they are old, sick, or unable to take care of themselves for some reason.
A caregiver usually offers unpaid assistance to his/her loved one. However, one can also hire a professional caregiver to assist them.
History of Caring for Elders
Traditionally speaking, the adult family members are duly responsible for caring for the elderly in a household. However, with changing times, people have less time to spend with their family members, and thus, it is recommended to hire professional help if you cannot be present with the older family member all the time. Adult day-care, assisted living, nursing homes, and adult home-care are some of the options for you.
You need to plan about taking care of aging people in your household. Below are a few ways to do the same.
Time with seniors
Please keep track of the time with seniors so that you can know when they will be staying alone and needing an assistant, what is the time of their medication, when to take them out, the best hour for exercising, etc. It helps when you know their timetable beforehand.
Talk about finances
Many senior citizens have funds and pensions to take care of themselves. However, sometimes, it’s not enough. Thus, it is important to have the money to talk with them, even if they aren’t dependent on you, especially if they are financially dependent on you. Devise a mega plan that serves the needs of all.
This is another important piece of financial advice for the elderly in your household. Complete the paperwork beforehand, such as a power of attorney. Let them prepare their will and keep it safe with an attorney or whoever they prefer or trust. It will make things easier when you both get hold of the process and clear your income.
You can choose from various healthcare programs ranging from transportation, home care services, prescription medicine, financial assistance, legal aid, and nutrition/supplement services at quite less price through various benefits check-up services.
The service is exclusively available for elders and is spread across all the states in the US.
The best way to get through your day as a caregiver is to be driven by a purpose. You must plan your day and make your own health care decisions.
While comfort care shall always be a part of your plan, introducing new forms of treatment or interesting features every day will be fun and energizing for your loved one.
Tips for Creating More Joy and Less Stress for a Caregiver
To give more energy to joy is to create more joy and less stress. However, as a caregiver, it can be far more challenging not to let the stress in. Thus, it is important to follow some of these tips to create a happy caregiver habit.
Habits for happy caregivers
The exceptionally happy caregivers try their best to make the most of every moment. However, this comes with a lot of practice and determination, which eventually turns your natural state of being. Here are some habits for happy caregivers to practice to ensure their health and wellness are always on their side.
- Move your body every day – This may include exercise, yoga, running, dancing – anything that changes your body’s energy, from low to high. Exercising releases endorphins, and you know it is one of the happy hormones of the body. It majorly helps in reducing/eliminating stress, anxiety, and depression from your body. Thus, it gives you a happy body.
- Meditate for at least 20 minutes: This ancient practice is known to relax one’s mind and calm one’s emotions. With regular meditation practice, you learn to remain centered and peaceful throughout the day. This will make it less difficult for you to deal with the person who needs your attention and love.
- Replenish your mind and body: It is important to give yourself the replenishment that you deserve. Go to a new city or in nature to recharge and rejuvenate yourself simply so that you can take care of yourself and other people well and good.
- Set personal/financial goals – As a caregiver, you work hard to enhance the well-being of your loved one. However, it is equally important to set and smash your own goals. Remember, even if you are a caregiver, you have your own life, and respecting your own life is the way to love and care for others.
Ways Caregivers Build a Support System
A caregiver needs financial, social, emotional, and physical support as much as the one they are looking out for. While many caregivers have big or extended families or a strong group of friends to help and support them, many take up the charge alone, and thus, are advised to build a support system. There are certain ways in which caregivers build a strong support system, and below are some suggestions for the same.
Create or bring together an authentic team
Even if you are the primary caregiver, it is important to bring together a group of responsible adults who know when and how to help you. Divide the work amongst them and guide them through it while you keep your focus on the major task related to the ill or sick loved one.
Share the problems/issues
It is important to learn the condition and problems of the person who needs your care and support. You should communicate the same to the team that you have put together for support.
Share your concerns about the person, finance, physical struggle, mental and emotional problems, medicines, etc.
You can talk about it through social media, set up an online fund for money, or seek some advice from a family member/friend/relative, etc.
Ask and accept help
Whether you are a caregiver for the long term or short term, it is important to learn that you cannot pull it off alone and thus, need support from communities, family, relatives, etc.
Do not shy away from asking for what you need and accepting the help. There is no shame in it. You are human, and it is important to get as much help as possible to get through the whole situation.
In the case of long-term caregiving, it is recommended to hire some professional help, such as home care agencies, in-house nurse services, therapists, doctors, etc.
You might have to think out of the box at times to make the most of the situation without exhausting or tiring yourself too much. For the health of both you and your loved one, it is vital to keep looking for creative ways, no matter what.
Journaling for Caregivers
Journaling has always been a creatively healing way to get your thoughts out of your head and on paper. Some of the major benefits of journaling are relieving stress from your physical and emotional body, finding the coping strategies that work for you, developing communication strategies, finding solutions to your problems, and recording your loved one’s journey.
In a caregiver journal, you can address the diagnosis, medication, track their progress, manage time and activities to improve the mood and well-being of the loved one who needs your help. Journaling, thus, certainly is one of the secrets of happy caregivers.
Stress-relieving Caregiver Activities
It isn’t easy for caregivers to take time out and let go of all the stress that usually makes a home in their bodies. However, it should be made mandatory for all caregivers, professional or not, to take some time by indulging in some stress-relieving activities. Some of the highly recommended stress relieving caregiver activities include the following.
- Deep breathing – The most natural way to stay connected to your body is to take deep breaths. Truly, it’s life-changing for caregivers to inhale oxygen through their noses and exhale through their mouths to let go of all the stress from their bodies. Even a 10-minute break comprising deep breaths + centering oneself can positively change your stressed body and mind.
- Go outside from time to time: When your loved one is sleeping or resting, it is recommended to go outside in a park or a garden, sit there with yourself, and connect with the energy of nature. This is truly rejuvenating for the caregivers, especially those extending their services for a long time.
- Have a gratitude list – You can note down five things or people you are grateful for and read them over and over until your subconscious accepts the grateful state of your mind. Gratitude is known for lowering the stress level and bringing calm to your heart. Even the simplest things count, such as ‘you’re grateful for breathing or for a cup of tea you are about to drink.’ See how this works?
- Put on some music and groove: There is nothing more healing than music. It is a meditation for those who are dancing and listening to music. Close your eyes and move your body to the beat or the rhythm and breathe with it. Open your eyes after 10 minutes; you will feel better and less stressed.
- Swimming: One of the most distressing activities is swimming or floating in the water. If it is a natural lake, river, or waterfall, it’s even better. Water is one of the most healing elements of nature, and thus, soaking your body in a pool or even a bathtub will be of great help to rejuvenate your body.
Importance of Fitness for Caregivers
You cannot take care of others if you fail to take care of yourself; we all know that. So, even if you cannot do a lot to boost your health and fitness, you can add a fistful of activities to your routines, especially if the stress seems to be going beyond your control. Some of the healthy measures to deal with caregiver stress include –
- Set personal health and goals, such as exercising, running, practicing yoga, meditating, and following a good diet daily.
- Join a support group to meet like-minded people who understand you and your emotions.
- Set realistic goals for yourself and the person/people you are supporting. Break big tasks into smaller ones, for example.
- Don’t be afraid to call for help if needed. You cannot always do it alone, and it is okay to reach out to your family, friends, and loved ones.
Resources for caregiver support – Arm yourself with information
Do you know that around 26% of family caregivers in America face emotional hardships while taking care of a loved one? Despite allowing your stress levels to burst out in various ways, finding good resources for caregiver support is recommended.
You can opt for community support groups, websites, books, blogs, respite care, and arm yourself with the knowledge to help others like you as well.
There are specific online and offline support groups for people suffering from various illnesses, problems, and issues that affect their mental, physical, and emotional state. You can choose the one that suits you and your loved one the most.
Managing Your Finances as a Caregiver
More than 46 percent of Americans spend about $5,000 of their money caring for older people. If your parents are above 60, then the chances are that they would be more or less dependent on you. Thus, you must consider following some important ways to manage finance as a caregiver.
How Much Do Caregivers Make?
Speaking of America, the average salary of a caregiver is around $14.5 on an hourly basis. This means that they earn about $28,275 per year. Many caregivers or companions also get benefits, including referral programs, sick leaves, life insurance, dental insurance, health insurance, paid time off, flexible schedule, etc.
The table below shares the average hourly rates for caregivers by state. While states such as Delaware and Wyoming offer rates as high as $27 per hour for experienced caregivers, on average, experienced caregivers get about $18 per hour. Beginners can expect to get about $12.5 per hour on average.
|State||Low Hourly Rate||Median Hourly Rate||High Hourly Rate|
Source: Salary: In Home Caregiver
Talking about salary satisfaction, around 31% of caregivers consider that their salaries are enough for the way they live.
However, one can never be sure about the circumstances that might demand more fiscal spending, one of them being taking care of their loved ones with money, especially if they will depend on them for the rest of their lives.
Thus, it is important to save a chunk of your income for them and use the rest for your well-being. This will give you a clear idea of dividing your finances as per your and your loved one’s needs.
Tips To Improve Your Regular Cash In Hand As a Caregiver
To reduce the financial struggle while taking care of your parents, grandparents, and other senior citizens, it is required for you to take some steps that save money. Thus, we have compiled a few points to help you reduce your expenses while taking up the responsibility of a caregiver to senior citizens.
Carpool to work
Perhaps the easiest way to save some thousand bucks is to completely give up driving your vehicle to the office, market, and other places. Instead, start a carpooling business and reel others in as well. You can also sell your car to get a hold of more money.
Use cash instead of credit
Whenever you go out shopping, make sure that you use cash and no credit card. It is even better if you decide not to carry your credit card with you any longer, at least for as long as you are a caregiver to your parents or any other senior citizen.
Cancel unnecessary memberships
When you take up the financial responsibility of supporting someone else, it would be best to cancel all the unnecessary memberships to clubs, gyms, etc. If you have subscribed to various magazines, newspapers, and other paid platforms, it would be best to cancel all that or only keep those you don’t want to live without.
Cook your meals instead of buying
This will help you build good health and reduce many expenses. Say goodbye to eating out in a restaurant every other day and start cooking your meals at home.
Sell unwanted and unused items
We all have some new stuff resting in the garage or the attic for us to use someday. Only, that day might never come. If you haven’t used the property for more than five years, it is perhaps time to let it go and make good money from it.
Free board for spending time with seniors
With aging, many people become isolated, alone, and depressed. Certain facilities in Holland offer services like free board for youth who want to spend time with seniors. This is a good option for a cheap accommodation for caregivers.
Look For Government Funded Caregiver Facilities
In many countries, there are government-funded facilities that provide services to caregivers from free counseling to even financial aid. These are usually available for cheap, make sure that you avail of them.
Finances For The Sandwich generation – Caring for Children and Older Parents
The sandwich generation refers to people who are anywhere between the 40s and 60s and are responsible for bringing up their children while also taking care of their aging parents. These middle-aged adults become pressured to take care of their children, parents, and grandparents simultaneously.
The term sandwich generation was recognized during the late 20th century when women usually gave birth to a child in their early 20s, and their parents were around 40 or 45 years of age. However, things started to change when women, on average, birthed a child around 30 or later.
This means that the parents usually cross the 50 mark and might need support from their kids due to aging. At this point, this generation is expected to take care of their children’s well-being and their parents on an emotional, mental, physical, and financial level.
How Much Is The Burden On The Sandwich Generation?
An average ‘sandwich generation’ adult spends around $10,000 and about 1,350 hours on their children and parents. It has also been calculated that around 25% of adults provide financial support to their aging parents.
It has also been observed that these middle-aged adults deal with many economic challenges since they are supposed to take care of three generations.
Being a part of the sandwich generation, thus, affects your financial health, along with emotional health and mental health. This also means that one doesn’t get enough time to relax or be with themselves.
With a lack of personal time and constantly being active in taking care of so many people of different age groups, many sandwich generation folks may fall into the clutches of mental illness, anxiety, depression, and more.
Many people also risk their careers, which leads to more financial constraints in their lives. These struggles might lead to complete burnout on every level. They also tend to develop many psychological issues because of the constant push and pull of life.
Such a system is most prevalent in Asian countries, such as India, Korea, China, and Hong Kong. However, as per the Pew Research Centre, one in every eight Americans between the ages of 40 and 70 takes care of a child and their parents.
Financial Planning for The Sandwich Generation
Set Clear Expectations
Have a transparent conversation and create a balance between your parents’ expectations and your original financial status.
Create a Support System
Establish a support system with the help of your siblings. For instance, one or two siblings can take the financial responsibility of the parents. At the same time, the other two can spend more time with them and take the emotional burden. Keep the communication clear and create a space for everyone to put across their opinion.
Learn a Bit Of Accounting!
Identify and understand the expense of your children and parents and work accordingly. You can gather direct monthly payments of your parents, including rent, groceries, transportation, healthcare needs, etc.
Now, do the same for your children and consider the school fees, clothing, shoes, tuition fees, study supplies, and other important things related to them. Once you have this information, you can start preparing for the expense and adjust your finances.
Budget, Budget, Budget.
Find your budgeting style (see the apps like You Need a Budget or Mint) and once you’re set with your expenses, go ahead and arrange your funds accordingly.
You can also open separate savings accounts for your children and parents and keep adding a certain amount of money to their bills every month.
Caregiving leaves little time for research and investing, but there are many options available for low profit, low-risk investment that you can invest in on a regular basis. Make sure to not let your money idle around believing you might need it for emergencies. Divide your savings into an investment portion and a liquid portion so that you keep aside a little for contingencies.
Don’t depend only on Medicaid. Make sure you understand insurance options and get private insurance if possible for yourself, your family, and those you take care of to cover for contingencies.
Caregivers Home Medical Care
Family caregivers provide unpaid assistance to the members who need help. However, what happens when caregivers need care themselves? You can hire professional caregivers via home medical care and nursing homes to care for yourself when you are sick or need to talk to someone.
These caregivers can provide medical and non-medical health care both at the comfort of one’s home. While Medicare does not pay for home medical care, you can claim medicare if you need to get short-term help for sickness or poor health.
You cannot help but age with time, sooner or later. Thus, it is important to care for your life since so many lives are attached to it. It is great if you are a senior citizen and in good health and shape. However, elder care planning is still recommended for people to face any dramatic changes in their health.
In its most basic sense, Eldercare means considering the emotions of a family member on a mental, physical, and emotional level. Elderly well-being is truly a sum of taking care of their state of emotions and physical body, and in this section, we will learn how to do that.
Life Hacks for Caregivers
When different ideas come together, they give rise to life-changing hacks, and as a caregiver, you must consider them. We have researched and compiled the best ones for you below.
Exceptional caregivers- Set alarms for everything
Everyone has a smartphone these days, and most of us use it to set the alarm for important events. As an exceptional caregiver, you must consider setting the same for even a small activity if it is a part of your routine.
For example, the time for the medication of your loved one, exercise routine, diet plan, etc., required to be done or completed at a certain time, and alarms would take away that stress from your body.
Take short breaks and go outside!
Keep a ready bag of essentials to take your loved one outside every now and then, with things like wipes and medicines etc all packed. The sun and fresh air are sure to make your day brighter.
Plan fun activities
Board games, card games, and small activities can spruce up a caregiver and patient’s life both. Be ready with a set of activities to play along with the one you are caring for.
Labeling things makes life easier for everybody, especially if you need things like medicines or supplies in a rush. And if the one you care for has dementia, then labelling is an absolute must.
Buy clothes with velcros and straps
Focus on easy dressing. Don’t wear complicated stuff, and save a lot of time for yourself.
Secrets of Happy Caregivers: Exceptional caregivers share their tips
As per the American Medical Association, caregivers are at risk of immense psychological and mental stress. Thus, it is not suggested but mandatorily recommended to all the caregivers of America (especially the middle and old-aged ones) to learn and follow the secrets of happy caregivers. What are those secrets? We shall find out below.
The exceptional caregivers have experience of more than 15 years in the service and are usually professional and dedicated in their approach. According to them, there are certain ways to take care of people that lead to one’s happiness. Some of these tips are mentioned in the downward section.
Don’t Compromise On Sleep
The number one secret of happy caregivers is a healthy sleep pattern. Yes, happy caregivers tend to have a deep and good night’s sleep. To keep their mental and emotional health glowing, exceptionally good caregivers sleep for at least 7 hours in the night and do not shy away from taking naps in-between their duty as well.
Engage, Don’t Direct
Secondly, happy caregivers know how to empathize and engage with the sick individual. Yes, empathy is the highest form of learning, and one can use this quality to understand other individuals. In the case of a caregiver, they can get the idea of the problems, needs, and issues of their loved one/patient and comfort them accordingly. It also establishes a strong connection with the one who needs your care and support.
Believe In What Comes Around Goes Around
Thirdly, a happy caregiver is extremely passionate about his work. Believe it or not but even the service of a caregiver requires passion and dedication. How will you be happy if you do not like what you do, even your loved one? Moreover, if you engage with an ill or sick individual with passion, they will feel your positive energy and feel better about themselves.
Respect Those Who You Care For
Finally, one should always maintain their presence around the person who needs them. Being transparent and respectful towards the discomforts, pains, fears, and other problems of your loved ones will not only create a healing environment for them but a place of distressing for your mind and body as well.
Whether you opt for professional help or take care of your loved one yourself, it is recommended to put yourself first and follow all the requisites of being a happy yet purpose-driven caregiver.
Truly, there is no way to be a better friend, child, or a loved one to others if you aren’t loving and taking care of yourself. So, do whatever it takes to be physically, financially, and mentally so that you take better care of your parents, elderly, and disabled people.