Caregiving Is Not for the Faint of Heart

It’s heartbreaking to see a loved one battle dementia or any other degenerative disease. On top of the emotional toll it takes, caregiving for a loved one is a full-time job – and life often gets in the way.

Caregiving comes in all shapes and sizes. It can be as simple as offering gentle reminders designed to ensure that a loved one’s dementia does not lead to harm (“Did you remember to turn off the stove, Mom?”). At the same time, it can involve difficult conversations such as when it is time for a loved one to stop driving. Caregiving can also involve the supervision of a loved one as they take their medication, get dressed, or take a shower. Of course, caregiving extends all the way to the point that the caregiver is providing hands-on assistance with all activities of daily living for a bed-bound loved one.

Many families cannot afford in-home care, so they cobble together coverage among family members to care for their loved one. The Medicaid system is not set up to help families of limited means to keep family members who need extensive long-term care at home. Nonetheless, many feel it is their duty to never place a family member in a facility unless it is medically impossible to keep their loved one at home, stretching the bandwidth of the caregiver.

Caregivers are not just caregivers: They are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives. Many hold full-time jobs and are also caring for minor children. In addition, caregivers often bear the brunt of the financial responsibility of caring for their disabled loved one, as well as the rest of the family. These financial costs are exacerbated by all the time away from work required of a caregiver who is managing their loved one’s finances and medical care.

Even when it becomes medically impossible to care for a disabled loved one at home, the caregiving does not end. Caregivers still must ensure that the facility personnel are appropriately caring for their loved one and that the facility (and all other bills) are kept current. For those who need to seek Medicaid assistance with the cost of care, the application process is fraught with pitfalls. Don’t forget all the Medicare and supplemental insurance billings that caregivers often have to coordinate. In short, the responsibilities of a caregiver can be extensive and life-altering on multiple levels. To add insult to injury, it is not uncommon for family members that are not directly involved with the care question or second-guess their efforts.

So how can caregivers manage these responsibilities while providing for their loved one appropriately? Self-care, keeping lines of communication open with other family members, and enlisting others to help shoulder the burden are all important, but often missed or neglected because of the enormity of the task of caregiving. Without the right support, caregiving can lead to family conflict, burnout, or, even worse, the caregiver becoming ill as well. To achieve a bit of respite, caregivers may wish to consider enlisting other family members to help manage financial and legal matters in addition to helping provide care. An experienced Eldercare attorney can assist with legal issues, ensuring loved ones receive the care they deserve now and have their wishes carried out when they’re gone.

If you or someone you know is struggling with the demands of caregiving, you’re not alone. Our firm can help with issues like Medicaid planning to pay for long-term care or assistance with powers of attorney needed to manage an elderly parent’s finances. By finding the best solution for your unique situation, our goal is to make a tough situation a little bit easier for you and your family.

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