We are all caregivers in some way. Perhaps we look after family, friends, neighbors, or even pets, offering medicine or bringing chicken noodle soup when someone is sick, or simply being a compassionate ear when a loved one needs to talk. However, some of us have ventured into extraordinary caregiver journeys. We care for grandparents, parents, spouses, children, and other family members who can no longer care for themselves—those who suffer from Alzheimer’s, dementia, strokes, and other disabilities.
It’s estimated that there are 44 million family caregivers in the United States, providing roughly 75% of all necessary care services. Family members spend about 37 billion hours each year providing care which, if paid, would amount to at least $470 billion in wages annually. What’s more, AARP notes that caregivers spend about 20% of their own wages to provide for those they care for, which amounts to $6,954 on average, or as much as $9,022 per year in certain demographic groups.
If you’re a family caregiver, you probably don’t need to be reminded of your ongoing sacrifices; you know them well. However, in honor of National Family Caregiver Month, we’d like to recognize the work that you’re doing, and provide you with information about a few resources that may be able to ease some of your strain.
1) Support Groups
Although each caregiving journey is unique, many of the challenges individual caregivers face share similarities — from trying to carve out “me” time, to navigating the medical community, sorting through government benefits and insurance plans, and more. On top of this, caregiving can be emotionally trying as well. It helps to have support from others who are working through similar challenges or who can simply understand what you’re coping with. Your local hospital or your loved one’s physician can usually point you in the direction of support groups designed for caregivers in your area. In addition, MeetUp.com often lists local support groups, or you can create a group if it doesn’t already exist in your area. If getting out to meet in person is difficult, various online support groups are available, such as The Caregiver Space, the Smart Patients Caregiving Community and Caregiving.com.
2) Respite Care
Many insurance plans offer respite care benefits. Medicare and Medicaid will provide them under specific circumstances as well. Respite care is a special type of temporary care provided for people with disabilities or life-threatening illnesses. Although the duration of relief care varies, it often gives caregivers a few days or couple of weeks each year to rest, travel, or see to their own personal needs. If your insurance does not cover respite care, see Julia Quinn-Szcesuil’s Care.com article “How Do I Pay for Respite Care?”
3) In-Home Healthcare
Like respite care, in-home healthcare is often a covered benefit of insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid plans. It can help bridge the gap between enabling someone to stay at home and recovering in a skilled rehabilitation center or staying in a nursing home. While it’s not ideal for someone who needs around-the-clock care, it can help caregivers make ends meet, as the healthcare specialist can assist with things like bathing and dressing wounds during a visit. Philip Moeller walks a caregiver through the process of setting up in-home healthcare through Medicare on PBS News Hour.
4) Local Area Agency on Aging
Your local Area Agency on Aging can provide a wealth of information and connect you with all sorts of resources, ranging from assistance understanding benefits that are available to finding care providers and services in your area. To find your local resource, visit the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging website and enter your location.
Most people have to work a paid job in addition to caregiving, and that presents unique challenges as well. Between needing time off for surgeries and doctor appointments to managing affairs and providing physical care, flexibility from employers is often needed. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides a pathway for people caring for others to take time off when they need it, without worry about losing their job.
6) Benefits Checkup
With so much going on and so many things to track, it’s easy to overlook a benefit or service you may be entitled to that can ease some of your burden. The Benefits Checkup provided by the National Council on Aging lets you enter your location to see all programs in your area you or your loved one may qualify for.
Oftentimes, insurance plans and medical programs leave a gap, and not everyone is fortunate enough to have coverage either. Expenses for things like medical equipment and prescriptions add up fast. If you’re a caregiver acting as head-of-household, you may also be struggling with the cost of pet medications, and general household expenses too. RefillWise can help with all these things. Our free pharmacy discount card works on all prescription medications, as well as prescription medical equipment, and can be used at most popular pharmacies — saving you money whether you need to make purchases for yourself, your family, the person you’re caring for, and even your pets. Best of all, our rewards program offers you cash back for using our card, which you can use on all your other needs, from groceries to hygiene supplies, clothing, or little treats for yourself. To get started, text JOIN to 22822 or sign up on our site now.