Senior caregivers often find that their resources are suddenly not what they used to be, and it can be a huge shock to the system to realize that your nest egg has been drained. Taking care of an aging loved one is a stressful job that can take a toll physically, emotionally, mentally, and financially if you’re not careful. It’s important to learn how to prevent those surprises from popping up down the road as well as how to cope with them in the present.
It’s not always easy to know the right path. Helping your loved one age in place at home often seems like the right decision, but making modifications for safety and managing day-to-day operations can put quite a dent in your bank account, especially if you have had to take time off work to help your loved one. Fortunately, there are some simple ways you can prepare for financial wellness.
Set a Budget
No matter how involved you are in your loved one’s financials, there needs to be a clear-cut budget set for both of you. Have an accountant review your finances and help you create something you can easily stick to without cutting a lot of corners. Look for ways you can save every month, even if it’s just a few dollars at a time because it will add up. This might include carpooling as often as you can to save on gas, using energy-efficient light bulbs and appliances to save money on your utility bills, or couponing when you do your grocery shopping.
Don’t Lose Your Retirement Fund
Many caregivers are forced to withdraw money from their retirement funds to supplement care expenses, and this can lead to big trouble down the road. Avoid this altogether if possible; if you’ve already had to make that decision, start adding back to the fund to build it back up a little at a time. Make it a habit to start putting aside money each payday specifically for retirement.
If you continue to find that you’re dipping into your savings or checking account, talk to your loved one about possibly selling their home, particularly if the profit from the sale can cover their living expenses. An older family home that’s mortgage-free could have a significant amount of equity built up, and with a few calculations, you can determine whether selling is a smart move.
Take Care of Yourself, Both at Home and at Work
Being a caregiver often means you have to put yourself last, but sometimes you have to make yourself a priority. Taking care of yourself will not only help you become a more effective caregiver, but it will also reduce stress and keep you healthy, which can help you ward off medical bills of your own. Exercise daily, eat well-balanced meals and do something you enjoy for a little bit each day. If necessary, implement some time-management strategies into your daily routine; this way, you’ll know you’re setting aside a little time for self-care while leaving room for everything else. Even managing your time can help relieve stress. When you feel stressed or overwhelmed, have a go-to activity that will help you relieve tension.
Taking care of yourself is especially true for business owners who are also caring for a loved one. Juggling these responsibilities can often cause a lot of stress, especially since both will often require your undivided attention. Thankfully, you can outsource different work tasks to freelancers and other businesses.
For example, as a business owner, you can’t neglect your payroll. Defining payroll and all it entails can be difficult, but it breaks down like this: it’s the process you use to pay your employees during a specified time period. There are many other aspects involved in payroll — from filing and paying payroll taxes to making sure you’re deducting the right things from your employees’ paycheck — but it all boils down to compensating your employees for their time. It’s something you’ll always need to attend to, even when you’re needed elsewhere. Fortunately, you can find payroll services online that can help take some of this responsibility off your shoulders.
The point here is that you can take care of yourself while being a caregiver, whether it’s by using at-home self-care or exploring ways to take some tasks off your plate at work. If you push yourself too hard in any direction, you could burn yourself out.
Talk About the Future
It’s essential that you talk about the future with your loved one. It may be difficult to think about what lies ahead, but it’s imperative that you know what their wishes are. In addition to discussing assisted living (and knowing the difference between that and independent living), be sure to discuss whether they have already started planning for their funeral. Starting a conversation about this can be very hard; look for support from a friend, family member, or support group, and be as open as you can with your loved one so you can start making plans for the financial side of things now.
Being a senior caregiver is a tough job in many ways, so it’s important to take care of your own needs too. Get creative when it comes to saving money and keep communication open with your family so they can help out when you need it.