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Planning is Key for Caregivers

by Wright Abshire Associate Attorney Theresa A. Clarke

According to the 2020 National Alliance for Caregiving and the AARP’s report, “Caregiving in the U.S.,” published every five years, more than 53 million Americans or 21% of our adult population provide unpaid care to family members or other loved ones. This increase of almost 10 million people since 2015 is no surprise given the aging population. Of all caregivers, almost 90% care for a family member, half care for a parent, almost a quarter take care of two or more people, and almost one in five caregivers is over age 65.

May is Older Americans Month, and many of us – including many who are older ourselves – spend several hours a week taking care of an older family member or loved one who needs assistance due to a disability. A caregiver’s role includes everything from simply checking in to providing ongoing and almost constant help with bathing, toileting, dressing, and more. The more complex and chronic the medical conditions, the more complicated and stressful caregiving can be. A caregiver who also works faces additional pressures. Caregiving can take a financial, mental, physical, and an emotional toll. This stress can lead to serious health issues for the caregivers, such as depression, anxiety, heart disease, and other long-term medical issues.

Many of these issues can be mitigated through pre-planning. For example, older adults can work together with their adult children or others to form a plan and secure arrangements before caregiving is needed. The aging adult should include financial considerations in the plan, including researching how much it would cost to pay a professional for assistance at home, ranging from basic help like housekeeping to nursing care, as well as the cost of assisted living. Families should also discuss how responsibilities will be divided. Last, families need to talk about the possibility of future nursing home care—how will the family know if it’s necessary and what measures can be put into place in advance to ease the transition.

If planning is not done with the parents, the adult children can still form an advance plan. First, assess the parents’ needs to determine what gaps in their caretaking need consideration. Unmet needs are best discovered while observed in the home. Is there food in the refrigerator and in the pantry? Are there unopened bills that are not being paid? Are they steady on their feet? Are they taking medications as prescribed? Are they easily confused?

If you see assistance is needed, you can begin to establish the support system they will need to continue living in their home. Now that many older adults, including the elderly, have smart phones or other access to technology, video calls, shared online calendars like the one available at www.cozi.com, and other apps, can be useful. A search for ‘best online caregiving apps’ yields many options.

Sometimes, planning is simply not an option. There are many resources available, provided by doctors, nursing facilities, local government agencies, and organizations. Transportation, meal delivery, home modification, home health assistance, and legal counseling services are available to relieve the caregiver of time-consuming tasks or to mitigate worries. You can also look for a support group that suits you and supports your needs. Support groups can provide not only a sympathetic ear but also much needed information regarding resources.

Although your caregiving job may seem daunting, assessing the needs and making a plan is the best way to start. An experienced elder law attorney can help you make a plan and give you the types of referrals you will need.

You may visit our website at www.wrightabshire.com. Wesley E. Wright and Molly Dear Abshire are attorneys with the firm Wright Abshire, Attorneys, P.C., with offices in Bellaire, the Woodlands, and Carmine. Both are Board Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in Estate Planning and Probate Law and are certified as Elder Law Attorneys by the National Elder Law Foundation. Nothing contained in this publication should be considered as the rendering of legal advice to any person’s specific case but should be considered general information.