Very recently our family lost someone very near and dear to all of us. She was a woman with a strong personality, and had many characteristics and traits that made her delightfully unique. She was also one of those people you just thought would be around forever. I'm not sure why that is true, but in her case, it certainly was, and I'm not the only person who felt that way.
When she began her downhill health spiral a few years back, and the signs that her health was not infallible made themselves very clear, one of the things her children did was consult with one another to determine who would be in the best position to provide her with assistance or become her permanent caregiver if needed. The second oldest daughter was selected and agreed to step up, with agreement from her siblings to help as needed. The decision made sense for many reasons and ended up being a good one.
Unforeseen challenges, however, arose for the siblings. There were instances that qualified as difficult (to put it mildly) for both sides (the mom and the adult children), but for the daughter who ended up taking care of her mom, some of the surprising ones were as follows:
- The costs of becoming a full-time caregiver for her mother were staggering. Co-payments, prescriptions, a special diet, her mother's bills, lost wages, and so on and so forth left the daughter scrambling to make ends meet.
- The daughter's retirement/travel plans were put on hold. Not knowing how long she would need to care for her mother, or to what extent she would be needed, all travel and retirement plans were instantly put on hold.
- Work relations became strained for the daughter. Even though she was a loyal, long-time employee, all of the time off, late entries (or the need to leave early), and adaptability needed to accommodate her mother's doctor appointments and hospital visits left her boss and co-workers very unhappy, despite their understanding of the situation.
- Exhaustion came to visit and did not want to take leave. Even with help from the siblings, the daughter was burning the candle at both ends, so to speak, and became overwhelmingly and constantly tired.
As noted in the article, Caregiver Lives Rerouted Yet Enriched by Aging Parents, there were many benefits to the care giving arrangement as well. The daughter learned a great deal of family history that she had previously not know; she took great comfort in knowing her mother was able to be in safe, loving hands that were familiar to her; and the already strong bond between mother and child was further cemented in ways neither could have ever predicted or known.
Though the rewards are plenty, as noted above, taking care of a family member full-time can also be a very difficult and trying situation. That is true in even the best of financially prepared households, but is especially understood when finances are not as predictable.
So what can be done to make things easier, should the need arise to become a long-term caregiver for someone in your family? Consulting a reputable source, such as Genworth Financial is a great first step.
Getting that help to sort through the tons of information out there and learning how you can take proactive steps to ensure a smooth transition, should the need arise, makes a lot of good sense. Doing it now could make a world of difference in providing benefits later, perhaps in ways that you might not even yet know or consider. For some things it pays to plan ahead, even if it's for the 'just-in-case." Planning ahead financially for the long-term care of a loved one, is easily one of those things.