What can caregivers do when siblings don't help with caring for your parents?
Providing care for aging parents can be overwhelming, especially if other family members (such as siblings) do not have time to help out. With 15.2% of the American population over the age of 65, according to the Administration for Community Living, an increasing number of people need regular care and support. (I mean, the prescription drugs alone! Almost nine in ten people over the age of 65 currently take prescription medication.) And that number is only growing: The most recent census found that the over 65 population had grown by 34.2% in the past decade. And, with that, the country has also seen an uptick in caregivers. According to a 2020 report from the AARP, 21.3% of Americans, or one in five, provide care to a family member (either an elder, another adult, or a child). Those caregivers average 24 hours a week on active care, although 61% of reported caregivers are also still employed.
Building a support system for yourself as a caregiver should include a healthy dose of self-care in addition to financial and administrative support.
Find a support group
Caregiving is nearly a full-time job, and doing it alone is not easy. Through The Caregiving Years Training Academy, founder and fellow caregiver Denise M. Brown offers monthly virtual meetings with caregivers across the country.
“I think it's really important to get emotional support around that situation. Because that's heartbreaking. It's frustrating. It's aggravating,” says Brown. Concerning the lack of support from family, Brown encourages caregivers to think about exactly what is going to help the situation.“It's important to get specific about the type of help that's needed,” she says. “Specific about the help that the family caregiver [themself] needs and specific about the help that the caree needs.”
Often, as Brown points out, things that support you as the caregiver will also support care recipients.
The Caregiving Years Training Academy also offers 30-minute sessions with trained caregiving consultants. All consultants have either cared for or are actively caring for a family member.
“It's just nice to talk to a consultant who's had that personal caregiving experience who understands what it's like,” says Brown. Sessions are not free, but caregivers can take them on an as-needed basis.
Actually benefit from social media
You may also find groups offering support on Facebook, Twitter, or even specialized social media applications.
The following groups and channels can offer easy virtual caregiving support:
Stories for Caregivers is a YouTube channel specializing in stories for and about caregivers.
The app Carely offers caregivers a way to share their journey with family members in a support-centered environment.
The Caregiver Support Group on Facebook has over 14,000 members.
The hashtag #caregiversupport on Instagram will bring you over 75,000 posts about the difficulties of providing care.
Instagram about caregiving burnout:
Have you ever served as a caregiver for a loved one—or known someone who has? Caring for another person is a very selfless thing to do, but it does not come without some consequences. While very rewarding, it often comes with a ton of stress and worry, especially if you’re caring for a relative or someone important to you. And this can easily lead to caregiver burnout—a very real and very serious health concern. But what, exactly, is caregiver burnout, and how common is it? Check out my latest article to learn more about how it’s becoming increasingly common and what you—or someone you love—can do if you suspect it’s happening. https://drpingel.com/caregiver-burnout/ or link in bio! • • • • • #drpingel #redefineyourhealth #naturopathicmedicine #stressless #destress #destressed #destressingtime #stresslesslife #mindbody #caregiver #burnoutrecovery #caregivers #caregiversupport #familycaregiver #caregiverburnout #seniorcaregiver #caregiverawareness #caregiversupport #selfcare #selfcaretips #selfcareroutine
A post shared by Dr. Tricia Pingel, NMD (@drpingel) on
For household support, look local
It takes a village, right? That saying applies to caregiving, too, especially if other family members have neglected to help.
Find your local teenagers.
“Oftentimes there's help in the neighborhood. It could be hiring local teenagers to help with lawn maintenance or snow removal,” says Brown. Removing this one task from the caregiver’s to-do list can free the caregiver to offer more hands-on care with the care recipient.
Get to know your neighbors.
If you know the people directly next to you, you can lean on them for tasks like picking up mail (if you are unable to do it) or watering the lawn.
Don’t be afraid to phone a friend.
Does your care recipient have a best friend still in town? Do you? See if someone in your support system can perform a simple task like grocery shopping or even taking your care recipient out for a manicure.
Seeking financial support?
The biggest roadblock to caregiving is finances. Assuming both the caregiver and the care recipient no longer work, caregiving can be a high-wire balancing act. Here are some helpful resources:
Benefitscheckup.org scans for local caregiver support programs. Simply enter your zip code and explain what kind of support you’ll need. The website will find whatever is available in your vicinity.
Medicaid offers some form of coverage for caregiving in all 50 states, although the programs vary widely. Some programs offer support for caregivers in the form of training programs; others provide homemaking services like cleaning, landscaping, etc. Check with your state program to see what you might qualify for.
Veteran directed care can help with administrative tasks for qualified veterans.
If the care recipient has long term care insurance, you will be able to use it for daily care costs. Note that long term care insurance usually needs to be obtained before long term care begins.
Other ways to cut caregiving costs
From Brown’s perspective, caregiving on a budget is all about planning ahead.
“I think about time as being costly,” she says. “So, if there's a way to save time, I think you can save some money. With that in mind, a few tips:
Brown recommends putting supplies on automated order from a supplier like Amazon. This will save you from splurging on a last-minute purchase when you run out.
Don’t be afraid to compare prices. Does your family member take daily medication? For example, using PharmacyChecker’s price comparison tool, caregivers can save up to 98% on their prescription drugs. A little fix like saving on the monthly order of Xarelto can really slim down monthly costs.
Consult your community.
No one quite understands caregiving like another caregiver. Check in with your support group about various costs you can’t seem to trim. Someone else has probably battled with it before.
Can I get a tax break for being a caregiver?
Yes. You have a few options, actually. You may claim your family member as a dependent so long as you meet IRS qualifications. (For example, you “must have paid more than half” of support costs in the previous year.)
Will Medicare pay me for caregiving?
Not directly. Medicare may be able to pay for strictly medical services, such as a home health aide, an at-home nurse, or physical therapy. These services will not be covered long-term, but they can help, especially if you or your family member are in a pinch.
I am an employed caregiver. Can my employer help?
Yes! Check with your human resources department about flexible spending accounts. Your employer may allow you to deposit a bit of your pre-tax salary each month to an account that can be used for dependent care. A Dependent Care Flexible Spending Arrangement is specifically for employees who are active caregivers. If your company is big enough (more than 50 employees in a 75 mile radius), you may also receive Family Medical Leave, which would be 12 weeks of paid leave to take care of a family member. Like Medicare’s health services offerings, medical leave is extremely helpful in a crisis, not necessarily for long-term care.