Discovering the True Costs of Being a Caregiver

The series Family Matters: The Money Squeeze produced by NPR’s Morning Edition should probably be required listening for anyone over the age of 50 whose parents are still alive. Why? Nearly 10 million people 50+ (and most are women) are caring for aging parents today. Since we are living longer, the ranks of the elderly will continue to grow and more and more adult children will be faced with tough decisions like those Yolanda Hunter and her mother are struggling with as they care for Yolanda’s grandmother who has Alzheimer’s. The third installment Discovering the True Costs of At-Home Caregiving can be found here.

Yolanda made the decision to quit her job and become a full time caregiver for her grandmother, a decision that came with considerable personal sacrifices. She expected to step out of her career for a year at the most. As she tells us in this report, after two years passed, she reached a point where she could no longer absorb the loss of income and adverse affect on her career. The cost of elder care, wherever it is provided, is considerable. But the cost can clearly go beyond dollars and cents - to the quality of life not only for the older adult, but also for the caregiver.

Though some families choose to be caregivers themselves, this is not the right choice for everyone. Acknowledging that you can’t do it alone doesn’t mean you’re a less caring person. Frankly, I’ve been involved with many families who tried to keep their loved one at home because they felt it was the right thing to do and they believed they could care for their loved one better than a stranger. 

Caring for someone with dementia requires a series of decisions.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, and many families reach a point when they need to transition to a care community. When they do, they discover something unexpected. They find that though no one can love their family member like they do, a team of well-trained staff is able to offer programming that is enriching and stimulating. In a care community, their loved one is surrounded by peers, who can share stories and common life experiences. And they discover that care giving at some point becomes more than a one-person job. Quality of life seldom comes from the physical environment, even if it is your own home, but rather from people and relationships we are blessed to have.

Staying at home may be the answer for your loved one. At the same time, considering a senior community may be an equally sound choice. I counsel families that caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s is not a single decision but ultimately becomes a series of them as the disease progresses. A qualified senior care professional can help you to look at your family circumstances and determine what options are available to you.  Armed with knowledge, you can make not only the best financial decision, but the best care decision as well. Go to the next installment, Paying for Senior Care.