When a person becomes ill, their family members often end up caring for them because it is the only financially feasible option. Caring for a loved one can be very rewarding, but it also involves many stressors. Family caregivers often become burnt out and financially stressed because their responsibilities leave them with less time for their own family and employment obligations.
Symptoms of Caregiving Burnout
Caregiver stress can be particularly damaging since it is typically a chronic, long-term challenge. Caregiving can be extremely disheartening when the support is provided to someone who is terminally ill and there is no hope that the family member will get better. The symptoms of burnout include extreme weight gain or loss, choppy sleep patterns, daily habits that erode, feeling constantly resentful, new or worsening health problems, and even clinical depression.
Resources for Caregivers
New efforts to help caregivers are emerging to provide informational and stress reduction resources, as well as respite opportunities to address the unrelenting physical and psychological burden of providing ongoing support to an ailing family member. For example, websites such as caring.com and the Family Caregiver Alliance offer online support groups. Additionally, the Alzheimer’s Association offers online communities, support groups, and a 24-hour helpline. It is also important to recognize that as a caregiver, you do not have to do all the work, all the time. Adult day care centers can offer respite for caregivers.
Financial Burden for Caregivers
According to a new survey from caring.com, nearly half of caregivers spend more than $5,000 per year to care for their loved one. Not only are caregivers spending considerable sums of money out-of-pocket to execute their responsibilities, they also are missing considerable amounts of work and compromising their own employment security because of their caregiving responsibilities. The same caring.com survey found that 60% of working caregivers said their care duties had a negative effect on their job. At least 50% of caregivers said they made changes to their work schedules to accommodate their caregiving responsibilities, 30% said they left work early or came to work late, and 17% admitted to missing significant periods of work.
Advance Planning to Mitigate Caregiving Burdens
In order to make sure that caring for a loved one does not become financially and logistically burdensome, it is important to remember to talk with your loved one about caregiving responsibilities and estate planning before the care services are needed. Such advance planning measures are far superior to attempting to figure out how to manage and subsidize a caregiving situation when you and your loved one are in the middle of a crisis.