By Sandra Schildgen

It’s heartbreaking to see a loved one battle dementia or any other degenerative disease. On top of the emotional toll it takes, caregiving for a loved one is a full-time job – and life often gets in the way.

Caregiving can range from simple supervision to ensure that a loved one does not harm themselves because of the forgetfulness of dementia to taking care of all of the daily living activities of a bedridden family member. Since many families cannot afford in-home care, they cobble together coverage among family members to care for their loved one. The Medicaid system is not set up to help families of limited means to keep family members at home.  Nonetheless, many feel it is their duty to never place a family member in a facility unless it is medically impossible to keep their loved one at home, stretching the bandwidth of the caregiver.

Caregivers are not just caregivers: They are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives. Many hold full-time jobs and are also caring for a minor or several minors. In addition, caregivers often bear the brunt of the financial responsibility of caring for their disabled loved one, as well as the rest of the family. These financial costs are exacerbated by the need to take time off for doctor or other medical appointments, as well as having to coordinate a loved one’s financial and legal matters.

Even when it becomes medically impossible to care for a disabled loved one at home, the caregiving does not end. Caregivers still must ensure that the facility personnel are appropriately caring for their loved one and that the facility is being paid from the loved one’s funds or, if not, that Medicaid benefits are secured. In addition, caregivers often have to coordinate Medicare and supplemental health insurance coverage. The responsibilities of a caregiver are extensive, and family members that are not directly involved with the care often question or second-guess their efforts.

So how can caregivers manage these responsibilities while providing for their loved one appropriately? Self-care, keeping lines of communication open with other family members and enlisting others to help shoulder the burden are all important, but often missed or neglected because of the enormity of the task of caregiving. Without the right support, caregiving can lead to family conflict, burnout or, even worse, the caregiver becoming ill as well. To achieve a bit of respite, caregivers may wish to consider enlisting other family members to help manage financial and legal matters in addition to helping provide care. An experienced professional can assist with legal issues, ensuring loved ones receive the care they deserve now and have their wishes carried out when they’re gone.

If you or someone you know is struggling with the demands of caregiving, you’re not alone. My colleagues and I can help with issues like Medicaid planning to pay for long-term care or obtaining legal authority over an elderly parent’s finances. By finding the best solution for your unique situation, our goal is to make a tough situation a little bit easier for you and your family. Get in touch anytime to discuss how we can help.

Want more caregiving tips? Learn how to make elder care more bearable and less stressful in Generation Law founder Ben Neiburger’s book “Brighter Skies,” which offers 10 guiding principles for caregivers. Get your copy here