When an aging parent or other loved one needs full-time care, many of us feel duty-bound to become a family caregiver. This can be especially true for adult children of ailing parents – after all, our parents took care of our every need for years. Don’t we owe them the same thing?

Choosing whether or not to become a caregiver is a difficult decision for anyone to make, even in the best circumstances. While your initial thought in this situation might be “Of course I have to take care of my parent/spouse/loved one – it’s my responsibility,” there are several things you should carefully consider before deciding to take the leap into this role.

Am I suited to be a caregiver?

This can be an uncomfortable question to think about, as it requires a good deal of self-reflection. No matter how much we love someone, we’re not always the right person to take care of their daily needs. Becoming a caregiver requires not only strong physical and mental resources, but emotional ones too – in fact, you could say that the emotional resources are the most important ones.

Witnessing someone your loved one deal with an illness or disability can be hard enough, but when you’re providing care for the person, you’re doing more than witnessing it. You’re going through the situation with them. And you may also become their primary source of comfort, entertainment, and social interaction.

For some people, this can be a challenging, but still very rewarding experience. It’s important, however, to consider whether you are one of those people. If you don’t think caregiving is a good fit for you, it’s not something to feel guilty about. Instead, you can put your talents to use by searching for other options for keeping your loved one at home, or talking to other family members to see if someone else might be able and willing to step into the role.

Am I financially able to be a caregiver?

There’s no question that becoming a caregiver can take a huge toll on a family’s finances. Depending on the level of care your loved one needs, you may have to cut back on your paying job, take a lower-paying job with more flexibility, or even give up paid work altogether. This will, obviously, have an effect on your own life and that of your spouse and children.

It’s important to weigh the impact that caregiving will have on your family’s financial future with the impact it may have on your parent or loved one. For instance, if caregiving will necessitate you tapping into your child’s college fund or your retirement savings, you may want to look at other options.

There are other options for easing the financial burden, as well. If your loved one has a life insurance policy that they no longer need, it’s possible that they could do a life settlement. This involves working with your financial advisor to sell the policy on the Secondary Market for a lump sum greater than the cash surrender value. If this is something you’d like to look into, ask your financial advisor to contact us at Ashar.

Is it possible to be paid as a family caregiver?

In some states, there are programs that can help ease the financial burden on caregivers by paying them a small stipend. If your parent or loved one is eligible for Medicaid, you may be able to receive payment through that program. You can find out by contacting your state Medicaid program.

There are also programs for veterans that may provide payment for their primary caregivers. To find information on these programs, visit caregiver.va.gov.

Do I have the support network I’ll require as a family caregiver?

There’s a huge amount of research nowadays on the stress that family caregivers go through. This is especially true for caregivers of people with dementia, or other mentally debilitating situations. Seeking out support networks of people who are dealing with the same issues is essential – otherwise, feelings of resentment, exhaustion, and anxiety are sure to crop up.

For some, caregiving can even carry physical consequences. A Sage Open article detailing study findings on caregiver burden cites several studies that found that caregiving was associated with a decrease in health outcomes for the caregiver.

It’s also important to make sure that your family members understand the sacrifice you’re making, and are willing to lend you whatever support they can.

Caregivers also must make some time for themselves and their own families, if they’re to be able to manage their all-consuming role. Perhaps other siblings or family friends can take over for a few days a month, or a paid caregiver can fill in on a regular schedule. There are lots of options for helping a loved one retain at least some independence for as long as possible, so it’s worth it to do some research.

Whether or not you decide to become a caregiver, it’s important that you remember one thing: you’re not alone. Make sure to seek out resources and support to help you during this difficult time of life, and talk to your financial advisor about ways to deal with the inevitable financial issues that are sure to come up. If that includes a life settlement, contact us!