Lessons for Future Caregivers

An expert offers advice on what you should know about the challenges

Gail Gibson Hunt, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC, caregiving.org) and a national expert on family caregiving, offers some surprising insights.

Don't rush into it

Figure out why you're doing it and if it is the best thing for everyone involved. When the NAC conducted the Caregiving in the US 2015 survey with AARP, findings showed that one of the factors that increases stress on caregivers is coresidence, living with you. Maybe the care recipient doesn't want to move in. Maybe you want to bring Mom to live with you, but she's got support where she is now. Assisted living or independent living might be a better choice. It's important that you don't rush into this.

Consider relationship factors

You're adding a whole new adult to a house. How you all get along is really critical once the person has moved in. Your kids and parent may have a better relationship with each other than with you! You have to have an understanding that this is something that the whole family is going to try to work on together.

Know the financial details

First, you need to know the financial situation of the care recipient. Do they have trusts? Savings? Long-term care insurance? What's their income besides Social Security? You need to be able to access some of that money to pay for things for them. A recent study found that it costs caregivers almost $7,000 a year out-of-pocket to care for a loved one — that's regardless of income level. You have to have a sit-down with the entire family and talk about what the care recipient needs and how it will be paid for.

What about adult day care?

You don't want the person you're caring for to be isolated, but they're probably not driving to meet friends or attend social activities. Adult day care may be an option. It can help both the caregiver and the care recipient. It gives them a way to get together with other older adults and have a good time, and you know they are well taken care of. Ask friends if they can recommend a place, or try the Eldercare Locator (eldercare.gov). This service can help you find adult day care centers in your area. You've got to be able to give yourself a break.