When Elaine finally settles in bed at night, she can still hear the words of the home care professional. “Your mother is doing well overall — it’s you who we are most concerned about.”
The fatigue. The high blood pressure. The depression. The dwindling savings. For millions of Americans, being a family caregiver often comes with a price: discounting one’s own health, finances and personal needs.
November is National Family Caregivers Month in honor of the 44 million Americans who volunteer to support a family member, friend or neighbor with their health or in managing a disability. In 2014, the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP surveyed 1,248 U.S. family caregivers, individuals age 18 and older who provide unpaid care to an adult or child.
The National Alliance for Caregiving is a nonprofit coalition of national organizations that helps advance family caregiving, and the AARP is the country’s largest nonprofit organization advocating for Americans age 50 and older. The survey findings are noted in a joint report, “Caregiving in the U.S. 2015.
Rewards and Challenges of Family Caregiving
Offering support to a loved one who needs help is replete with positive and rewarding experiences such as stronger communication, relationship connections and personal satisfaction in making a tangible difference in a loved one’s life.
Yet as enriching as caring for another can be, at times family caregivers can feel overwhelmed and exhausted. “Some symptoms of caregiver stress are more noticeable such as fatigue and body aches, but we need to stay aware of the possible emotional and financial strain to family caregivers, too,” said Gregg Balbera, president of Right at Home Nassau Suffolk. “Supporting family caregivers is vital to supporting care recipients. If we overlook any area of the caregivers’ overall health and well-being, we put their loved ones at risk.”
Economic Impact of Family Caregiving
Unpaid caregiving for a family member or other loved one creates a ripple effect on personal finances. Caregivers of older adults and adults with disabilities often face significant financial strain from out-of-pocket costs and long-term effects on savings and retirement accounts.
“Many of these dedicated men and women are continually making tough choices as they earn an income to help support their own families and provide care for their loved one,” Balbera explained. “Since in most states family leave is unpaid, the financial pressure can mount for employed caregivers who are squeezed between work and caregiving duties.” Overall, financial strain on family caregivers leaves the caregivers at risk for reduced wages and retirement and Social Security benefits, and inconsistent savings for their own future.
Support Resources for Family Caregivers
“Caring for a loved one at home is never meant to be an isolated experience,” Balbera said. “Every caregiver can benefit from accepting help from other family members and community resources. The extra support may be getting assistance with meals and housekeeping, seeking regular respite care, or planning ahead for possible crisis care. It’s encouraging to know that many of us equipped to help are just a quick phone call away.”
Balbera suggests the following support resources for family caregivers:
- Home care services for personal care, meal preparation, housekeeping, companionship, etc.
- Home healthcare services for skilled nursing care, physical therapy, etc.
- Adult day programs.
- Financial counseling and tax credits for caregiving.
- Caregiver support groups.
- Veterans assistance.
About Right at Home of Nassau Suffolk
The Nassau Suffolk office of Right at Home is a locally owned and operated franchise office of Right at Home, Inc., serving Nassau and Suffolk Counties. For more information, contact Right at Home Nassau Suffolk at www.rightathomeli.com, 516.719.5999/631.352.0022 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org