I’m excited to welcome Holly Bird from Holly’s Bird Nest to share a bit of her story with us today. Holly and her husband, Tim, were blindsided early on in their marriage with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease and, later on, dementia. Since that time, she’s taken over as the caregiver for him and wants to share her story to help others understand the trials, frustrations, and even joys that come with taking care of someone you love.
The True Cost of Being a Caregiver For Someone You Love
I have always been a positive person, with a positive outlook. Upon waking up in the morning there was never a time in my life that I thought to myself, “Who is going to get sick today?” My life has been filled with love and blessings and, while I have always known that things happen in our lives that we have no control over, I never thought that at a young age, I would be a caregiver for my husband, or how that would affect my life.
Many families have loved ones that are living with chronic illnesses and some even are facing end of life issues. Not only are there emotional stresses but the physical and financial expenses can make caregiving extremely stressful. I personally thought that I could be strong enough, emotionally and financially to handle any situation, especially since I had years of experience in the long-term health care industry.
One day we all think about “What would I do if something happened to my parents or spouse? Would I be able to care for them or even want to?” This is a question that only one person can answer and that is you…
Things To Consider When Embracing the Life of a Caregiver
Each caregiving situation will be different and depending on your loved one’s condition, the requirements can vary, and the expense can be greater as they need more care. Is this something you feel you can handle, or would it be better to find help?
These are very important steps in caregiving and only a small part of the everyday tasks you may have to do.
Medical and Physical
Of course, the bulk of caregiving revolves around the medical and physical needs of the person you are caring for. Those can include:
- Meal preparations and assisting with feeding if necessary
- Help with dressing
- Assistance with showering or bathing
- Assistance with using the restroom.
- Skin care, making sure that if your loved one is bed-bound they do not get bedsores.
- Helping with mobility, possible the use of a wheelchair, or walker, this can take a lot of physical strength.
- Helping with medications, filling reminder boxes or even administering, and making sure you have the meds you need.
- Advocating for your loved one, in personal and medical matters
With caregiving comes expenses, your and theirs, and it’s important that you take those into account ahead of time if possible. Some of them might include:
- The total amount of lost money due to reducing your hours or leaving your job.
- Retirement benefits, loss of matching 401K
- Social security- your future benefits
- Cost of the out of your pocket expenses; Including
- Travel and transportation
- Food and meals, I seemed to eat out more
- Household expenses
- Possible home renovations
Stress as a Caregiver
As you can see there are a lot of different aspects to think about when you are thinking about your future and what effects that caregiving can have on your finances. Your emotional stresses can also increase, and this expense is sometimes harder to handle than the financial. Some of those stressors might include:
- Watching a loved one struggle and suffer from an illness is one of the top stresses that anyone can incur. This should be one of the first things that one should think about.
- Stress-related illness for caregivers, including depression, are two times higher than the average rate.
- Caregivers put the health of the loved one above their own, including not going to the doctor, or taking a medication because of expense. I was guilty of this myself.
- Caregiving stresses can make your own health decline, which can affect your ability to give care.
Taking Care of Yourself
Taking care of yourself is the most important thing to do as a caregiver. If you allow yourself to be affected by the daily tasks of caregiving, without taking time off you will not be able to be efficient, you will start to have doubts that can affect you, your loved one you are caring for and of course other people in your life, children, spouses, and even friends. To do so, embrace the following:
- Set realistic goals. Don’t attempt to do everything. By setting attainable goals, you are setting everyone up for success rather than disappointment. Some people say they can not afford to take care of themselves, they don’t have the money. Self-care is the most important part of caregiving if you do not take care of yourself…who else will?
- If you need help with house cleaning or yard work there is a lot of very reasonable services available. Some churches offer free help, and there are many volunteers in every community. Don’t be afraid to ask!
- Schedule time for yourself. Take some time to meditate, go to the gym, if money is tight, try to go for a daily walk, especially if you have a dog, they feel the stress too!
- Unplug from technology, social media, can lead to more stress, but sometimes if you have a game you like to play, it can help you to relax, schedule your technology time, and make it time for you only!
- Take a bath or shower every day, use hand sanitizer, use gloves when necessary and keep yourself safe from and illnesses, yes, they are a loved one, but you are also protecting them from any “germs” that you have come into contact with.
Tip: Grab this FREE Household Task Checklist to help manage those weekly tasks – without the stress and overwhelm.
Are You Considering Caregiving?
My years of experience in caregiving go beyond working in a long- term care facility, I have cared for many loved ones including my husband. The past seven years have been the most stressful of my life, but I’m hopeful that my story will encourage others that it doesn’t have to be the same way for them.