By Peter Boys CAFA The Financial Coach
Most of us will at some point in our lives help a family member (parent, child, aunt, etc.) or friend with a long-term health condition, disability or problems related to aging. Providing care has many benefits. In addition to reducing the social costs associated with health services and institutionalization, it also allows the care receiver to remain at home and maintain a better quality of life. For most caregivers, being there when a loved one needs you is a core value and something you wish to provide.
However, there can be negative consequences, especially for caregivers. These include the impact on your physical and mental health, your participation in the labour force, pressures on your personal finances, and reduced time available for other activities. The federal government does have programs for caregivers to take a leave of absence from work for a period of time that could be of some assistance.
Nearly 3 in 10 people are now family caregivers
Today over eight million Canadians, or around 30 per cnet of people aged 15 and over, have provided some level of help or care to a relative or friend with a chronic health problem.
The “sandwich generation” is becoming a very common term. This describes parents of children that are also caregivers to their parents. Caregivers naturally put the care receivers comfort and happiness above their own, which can have serious consequences.
Having too many tasks and responsibilities when caring for a family member or friend can be a major source of stress, especially when caregivers feel they lack the resources to meet the needs of their care receiver. It is natural to feel angry, frustrated, exhausted, sad or alone. Caregiver stress needs to be balanced as too much over a long period of time can harm your health.
Physical health consequences
The intensity of the care is usually associated with a greater impact on the caregiver’s health. The physical strain of caring for someone who cannot perform daily activities such as bathing can put the caregiver’s physical health at risk. Caregivers also tend to put their own physical health on the back burner. This is not a benefit to anyone involved.
Financial and professional consequences
Many family caregivers will incur out-of-pocket expenses associated with their responsibilities. For some, this financial commitment is not inconsequential, since it can have an impact on disposable income and personal savings. The most common expenses, incurred by more than half of regular caregivers, were related to providing transportation, travel and accommodation. Caregiving can also cause a disruption within your professional or school goals.
Strategies for dealing with caregiver stress
1) Accept help. Allow others to assist you with errands or chores. You can’t do it all.
2) Focus on what you are able to provide.
3) Set realistic goals. Make lists and break larger tasks into smaller ones. 4) Access the resources available in your community such as meals on wheels, transportation services, bathing.
5) Find support. Support groups provide a community of people going through similar situations.
6) Set personal health goals such as eating a healthy diet or adding in some physical activity.
7) See your doctor. You have to care for yourself as well.
8) Take a day off. Access respite care if needed. Caregivers need to balance caring for someone else with caring for themselves.