Taking care of a parent, family member or friend in any capacity for any amount of time impacts your whole life. There are 53 million family caregivers in the U.S. providing unpaid care to an adult. These caregivers are managing disruptions to work and family daily and are grappling with the emotional toll and financial burden of caring for others. One thing is for sure: they need more help.
“We hear from family caregivers almost every day about the concerns, stresses and anxieties they face. They are worried about balancing caregiving and work, juggling family commitments, affording the costs of caregiving-- and for those doing complex caregiving tasks at home, they are in near constant fear of making a mistake,” says Bob Stephen, AARP vice president of caregiving and health. “Their list of worries is long and rightly so. But family caregivers do not have to go at it alone.”
Here are five free resources for family caregivers. In addition to these resources, every state has some sort of caregiver support program too. Family caregivers can access key programs, services and agencies in their community; these state-specific guides can help.
1. Get information on the most pressing issues facing family caregivers
Wherever you are in your caregiving journey, AARP has resources to support you. From protecting your loved one from fraud, to advocating for your loved one with healthcare professions, to coping with your own burnout, you’ll find valuable tools and resources for family caregivers.
2. Find your virtual community
You can join the official AARP group for family caregivers on Facebook or AARP Online Community’s Caregiving forums; here you can connect with others, share practical tips, offer support, and discuss your family caregiving experiences. The Facebook group regularly convenes around Facebook live events, too, on topics like where to find respite relief especially for military and veteran families or ways family caregivers can manage their finances if their employment status changes.
3. Watch videos on complex medical or nursing tasks
More than 20 million family caregivers perform increasingly complex medical/nursing tasks at home after a family member or friend is discharged from the hospital. They often report that they are overwhelmed and need more instruction. AARP has a series of “how-to” videos and resource guides for family caregivers on specific tasks – including preparing special diets, managing incontinence, wound care, mobility, and managing medications.
4. Take control of your finances
Helping a loved one manage their financial needs may be one of the first things you do as a family caregiver, and it can be a sensitive subject for all. The cost of caregiving can take a serious toll on your own personal finances. AARP has created the Financial Workbook for Family Caregivers to help you get organized. Each set of worksheets is designed for you to capture the essential information you need to manage the complex responsibilities of caregiving.
If you need more information specific to the financial and legal needs for family caregivers, like living wills, advance directives and power of attorney, there are resources dedicated to this topic too.
5. For working caregivers: Understand your employee benefits
The pandemic brought to light the unique challenges of working family caregivers. Meeting with your manager or human resources representative to better understand the policies and resources available to you can help. An employer with a strong culture of supporting employee caregivers can offer workplace solutions and help you build a caregiver support network.
When it comes to caring for an aging loved one, most families don't have a plan until there is a problem. But as many working caregivers have discovered, the stress of making caregiving arrangements in crisis mode can be overwhelming.
AARP's Prepare to Care: A Planning Guide for Families is a step-by-step guide for creating a caregiving plan in advance. Even if you have been a caregiver for years, the guide can help you get support and stay organized.
For other helpful tips regarding family caregiving, check out these articles from Banner Health:
- How to Be an Effective Caregiver When You Live Far Away
- Caregiving and Dementia: Navigating Ambiguous Loss and Grief
- Aging in Place: How to Get Your House Ready
- How to Know When Your Parent Needs In-Home Care