If you're faced with an elderly parent who is at the point of needing a consistent caregiver you're not alone. The Caregiver Action Network shares that nearly one-third of the U.S. population provides care for a family member. Although most will gladly step into the role of caring for their parent at their time of need it's important to understand the personal and financial repercussions that are part of the job. Here are 10 questions to ask yourself and to discuss with your family before you make this life-changing decision:
1. Do you have the time?
While it's simple to say you'll make whatever time is needed to provide for your parent the fact is 29 percent of U.S. caregivers spend an average of 20 hours per week in their caregiving role. If you have a family and a job this may be physically impossible to do for any extended period of time.
2. Do you have the financial ability?
According to U.S. News and World Report over one-third of experienced caregivers report spending a full 26 percent of their monthly budget on costs directly relate to the care of their parent. Add to this the possibility of future lost wages and social security funds when you budget the cost your parent care will total.
3. Will this affect your employment?
Seven out of ten caregivers have other employment, and a full two-thirds have had to go in late, leave early, or miss time due to caregiving issues. In addition, one out of five caregivers has taken a leave of absence due to caregiving.
4. Are there others who will help bear the physical and financial burden?
If you have siblings or other family members who are willing to contribute to the care you should hold a meeting and get specific commitments of both time and the financial burden. Make sure you plan for future costs too, as the cost of care is most likely going to rise with your parents' age.
5. Are you physically capable of the duties that may arise?
You may be willing to take on the role of caring but not physically able to. If you do not have the physical capability to lift your parent if they were to fall or are unable to rise from a chair or bed without assistance you may need to look at alternative care as a solution.
6. How will becoming a caregiver affect your physical and emotional health?
Caregiving is hard work, both physically and mentally. It might not be an issue for short-term emergency situations but you must have the physical and mental stamina to continue years and possibly decades, and the burden will become greater as time goes on.
7. Do you have a spouse and family, and if so how will they be affected?
It's hard to maintain a marriage and family. It becomes increasingly harder when caring for your mom or dad is added to the daily routine. Be sure to include your spouse and family in any conversations about this major change in lifestyle.
8. Do you have a support network?
Plain and simple: you can't do this alone. You need a network of family and friends who are willing and able to step up to the plate if your parent needs round the clock care or if you yourself become incapacitated.
9. What might change in the future and how will it affect my role as caregiver?
Our health deteriorates as we age, and while you can't see the future you can foresee possibilities and plan for them. Are there funds available to hire outside help if your parent becomes bedridden? What if they show signs of Alzheimer's or dementia and require round-the-clock monitoring? Often these conditions are gradual rather than sudden, and you have to be able to step back in order to clearly see the point where you can no longer cope with the amount of care required.
10. Are there any alternatives?
If your parent is at the point where they need help on a weekly or daily basis it may be time to have a serious conversation with them about the future. Gather the facts and research the costs before you talk about other alternatives such as assisted living. It's a good idea to include a financial planner, as they can do a cost breakdown and show both you and your parents the actual cost of care from a family member compared to a full-time companion or moving to an assisted living community.