I sometimes have clients who are faced with difficult decisions related to the realities that come with aging. One of the most important of those decisions is the choice of a caregiver. Understandably, many of my clients want a family member to provide care, should they need one. While a family member can be the right choice for some people, I caution clients to spend some time considering whether a family caregiver is the best option.
Most of the time the choice of using a family member as caregiver is treated as obvious. After all, the two most important considerations for most people making this choice is the quality of care and the cost of care. Our loved ones are going to treat us like family — which is what we want in the situation — and often, though not necessarily — they are providing the care out of love without the expectation of any compensation. Personal care, lovingly provided, for free — nothing beats that!
Family Caregivers by the Numbers
Family members provide a shocking number of hours of care to loved ones in the U.S. each year, often at great financial, physical, and mental cost to themselves. Consider some of the most recent facts and figures published by the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) in their 2020 “Caregiving in the U.S.” report:
- 53 million adults provide unpaid care – almost 10 million more caregivers than just five years prior.
- 61 percent of family caregivers are women
- Almost half (45 percent) of family caregivers report at least one financial impact related to providing care.
- Almost 1 in 5 caregivers is providing care for someone with health or functional needs.
- 24 percent of caregivers are providing care for more than one person – a 30 percent increase in five years.
- Just over 1 in 5 family caregivers report that their own health is fair to poor.
- 26 percent of caregivers have trouble coordinating care
- About 1 in 4 caregivers is providing care for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia
Challenging our presumption that family care is always the best care, however, is this shocking statistic: in almost 60 percent of elder abuse and neglect incidents, the perpetrator is a family member with two-thirds of them being adult children or spouses, according to the National Council on Aging (NCOA).
Considerations When Choosing a Caregiver
When offered a choice between a family caregiver or other care options (home health aides, assisted living, nursing home) people typically say they want a family member to provide care for them if it is needed. Likewise, family members often say they prefer to provide care to an aging loved one than to trust someone else to provide that care. Is a family caregiver truly the best choice for everyone though?
Regardless of the desire to provide care, a family caregiver’s life is often turned upside down. Providing care can cause financial, physical, and practical problems for the caregiver and may lead to unacknowledged resentment. If the caregiver gave up a job to be able to provide care, the financial repercussions can cause serious stress and strain on the caregiver and his/her family. That stress and strain, in turn, can cause even the most devoted caregiver to become frustrated or even to snap, increasing the risk of abuse or neglect. Meanwhile, the caregiver’s health often deteriorates at a more rapid rate because they are acting as a caregiver.
Before deciding that a family caregiver is the best choice, consider these potential realities. Sit down and have an honest discussion with everyone involved about how caregiving will impact the caregiver and his/her family. Research and discuss other options as well and be sure to consult with an elder law attorney about the legal issues involved in elder care. Once you have done all of that you should be ready to decide whether a family caregiver is the best choice for you.
Chapel Hill Estate Planning and Elder Law Attorneys
If you have additional questions about choosing the right caregiver, or other elder law-related questions, please contact the Chapel Hill elder law attorneys at Clarity Legal Group by calling us at 919-484-0012 or contactus online.
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