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Perspective

Why it’s smart to plan ahead: Informal caregiving on the rise

| Nov 19 2015
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Family members and friends providing care for someone (other than their children) have to squeeze in an average of more than 24 hours a week to take care of their loved one, according to AARP research. Caregiving is particularly time-intensive for those caring for a spouse or partner, which requires an average of 44 hours a week. That doesn’t leave much time for any of the other priorities you might have in your life. A good game plan can help get things under control.

Nearly one-quarter of informal caregivers provide 41 or more hours of care a week.

If you are caring for someone and hadn’t prepared for it, you might still be reeling from the emotional whammy.  And if you aren’t a caregiver now, what are the chances you might suddenly find yourself in that position? Despite the number of resources you can find on the internet, there is a general lack of understanding around caregiving and how people can start planning. What services are available? How much will formal care cost if it’s needed?

If you aren’t a caregiver now, what are the chances you might suddenly find yourself in that position?

There are resources out there to not only help you manage what your loved one may need, but prepare yourself for the journey ahead. You can find roadmaps, guides and general advice to help you and your family make important decisions and prioritize next steps.

A family affair

An estimated 43.5 million adults in the United States have provided unpaid care to an adult or a child in the prior 12 months, according to the AARP research. And approximately 34.2 million Americans have provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the prior 12 months.

Families often struggle to make arrangements when they are too far away, aren’t familiar with what’s locally available or simply can’t agree on a path forward. It helps to plan ahead by initiating a conversation about personal preferences in the event someone needs some kind of assistance. These conversations can also help prepare you and your family financially and mentally for what may lie ahead.

If siblings might be faced with the need to care for a parent, it’s helpful to agree on the roles each might play before a real need arises. Keep in mind that unresolved family dynamics will only add to the stress of scrambling to work out a hastily assembled plan.

Before you make any plans, prepare yourself to feel some emotions that could make you uncomfortable. You may already feel like you are going to have to carry more than your fair share, or you may already feel overextended in other aspects of your life. Just remember you are not alone. You might find some comfort in support groups where you can talk with other people facing a similar situation.

And don’t forget to see what your health plan might offer for you. Some programs like Aetna’s Compassionate Care Program offer tools and resources that can guide you through the many decisions surrounding a loved one’s care.