As I learned firsthand with my mom, caring for a parent in need can be an incredibly demanding job. However, that doesn’t mean you have to do it alone.
When my mom became ill, my dad and I were lucky enough to have several people in my family that were able to help us out. Then when my father became ill, I had siblings to help.
Caring for our parents seems to be a common topic of discussion with those of us in the 50+ age group. Unfortunately, for the 66 million Americans who provide care for an aging parent or a loved one with a disability, help isn’t always readily available. As a result, family caregivers are often so preoccupied with financial stress and helping someone else that they struggle to take care of their own needs.
Thankfully there are resources out there that can lessen some of the financial and emotional strain of being a caregiver.
First, socialization is important for maintaining the emotional health of both you and the person you’re taking care of. My dad and I got my mother involved with a community social group through a local church, which gave my dad a couple of days a week where he could focus on himself while knowing my mom was having fun with her friends.
You can follow our lead and arrange for your aging loved one to attend social hours at a local church, senior center, or community center. Or, you can find a nearby adult day care service via National Adult Day Services Association. There are currently 46,000 centers in the U.S., so you have plenty to choose from.
Second, caregivers need emotional support too, and you can get yours through various support groups that bring together people who are all going through the same thing as you. These groups can be found in nearby hospitals or, if you’re caring for someone with a particular illness, you can contact national illness organizations and find out if they offer any support options near you. There is typically no charge to attend these meetings.
Attending these groups, whether in person or virtually, can often provide you with great ideas and helpful resources. I went to one with my father and I was able to get information on a resource to an agency that helped my mother.
Lastly, to learn more about the aging resources that are in your area, check out the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging. Here you’ll find resources to agencies that are willing to help with meal delivery, legal assistance, transportation, health insurance counseling, and medication management. If you or your loved one is a veteran, you can explore the many benefits that could be available to you via VA Caregiver Support.
Being a caregiver doesn’t have to break your spirit or the bank. Even if you’re not currently caring for a loved one, familiarizing yourself with the resources that are available to you and creating a care plan will help you tremendously. My family and I wasted a lot of money because we weren’t prepared to provide the care my mom needed when her illness first started, but now we know what we could’ve done better. You are not alone in this—these tips and resources will always be there to help you whenever crisis strikes or big decisions need to be made.
Jeanette Pavini is an Emmy Award winning journalist specializing in consumer news and protection. She is the author of “The Joy of $aving: Money Lessons I Learned From My Italian-American Father & 20 Years as a Consumer Reporter.” Jeanette is a regular contributor to TheStreet. Her work includes reporting for CBS, MarketWatch, WSJ Sunday, and USA Today. Jeanette has contributed to “The Today Show” and a variety of other media outlets. You can follow her money saving tips and ways to give back on Facebook: Jeanette Pavini: The Joy of $aving Community. Find links to her social media and her book at JeanettePavini.com.