When a friend or relative becomes injured or ill and requires care, it's often women who answer the call. A recent Transamerica survey found that approximately three in 10 women are currently serving as a caregiver or have done so in the past. This does not include parenting responsibilities. It's a selfless act that deserves recognition and admiration, but it is not without cost.
Caregiving often restricts women's abilities to participate in the workforce, hurting their incomes and their ability to provide for their own families. This can in turn make these women financially dependent upon others as they age if they're unable to set aside adequate funds for their future.
Many women feel obligated to care for friends or relatives when the need arises, and I'm not saying you shouldn't. But before you do so, you must plan for the inevitable changes to your own lifestyle and seek ways to lessen the toll it takes. Try these tips.
Keep working as much as you can
Quitting your job might seem the only course when you're caring for others, but this can put a serious strain on your own finances that lasts long after the person you're caring for heals or passes away. It's best to remain working if you're able to do so and still provide adequate care. See if your company will permit you to shift to part-time work or work different hours in order to accommodate your caregiving schedule. You could also seek out a new job with more flexible hours.
Remote work is becoming more popular and more common, so this is another option worth considering. This route might enable you to continue working full time while still being there for your loved one when needed.
Rethink your budget
Reducing the time you spend in the workforce or leaving it altogether will reduce the cash you can spend on wants or saving for your future. Anticipating the changes to your income and adjusting your budget accordingly can make the transition a little easier. Estimate how much money you will have coming in each month once you begin caretaking and compare this to your monthly expenditures. Plan to cut costs, if necessary, to avoid taking on debt.
You might also need to plan for new expenses you didn't have before. You could spend more on gas if you're driving your loved one to doctor appointments often. Those who quit full-time work might also lose their health insurance and need to purchase a new policy on their own. Don't forget about these extra expenses when crafting your new caregiving budget.
Share the responsibility with others
See if others can share the caregiving responsibilities with you if doing it all yourself would place too much of a strain on your finances. Check with other friends and relatives in the area to see if they're willing to divide up the caregiving duties so that all of you can continue working at least part-time while still providing your loved one with the right care.
Employing a professional caregiver is another option. This will add another expense that you or your loved one must pay for, but it ensures care without taking you out of the workforce. You can still provide care during the hours you're not working if you want to be there personally for your loved one. Explore the options in your area to find out how much a professional caregiver would cost, and talk to your loved one to decide if this is a good fit for both of you.
Don't forget to take care of yourself
Caregiving can put a strain on your own health if you're running yourself ragged. You could rack up costly medical bills and be unable to work or provide the level of care that your loved one requires. That's why you need to know your limitations and prioritize your own physical and mental well-being even while caring for your loved one. Make sure you're eating well, exercising regularly, and getting plenty of sleep.
You also can't forget to care for your finances. This obviously involves paying bills, but it also means saving regularly for your retirement and your other financial goals. Failing to save enough could leave you dependent upon your children or other relatives in your senior years. Always make savings a priority unless you need every penny you earn to make ends meet.
Caregiving will almost certainly bring changes to your lifestyle, but it doesn't have to threaten your financial security as long as you plan appropriately. Follow the steps above and talk your situation over with your loved one to decide on the best approach to take.