Caregivers are feeling the pinch just like everyone else, but there is a difference. Many caregivers are used to caregiving on a dime. They’ve been on a “controlled” budget for years, and yet they may be reeling from their shrinking savings, or a recent change in insurance coverage that leaves them short. Another worry. How can caregivers make ends meet and not compromise case for their loved ones?
I don’t know about you, but I grew up with two very saving people. My parents were married in 1929 (and we all know what happened that year, managed to find jobs through the depression, then Daddy fought in WWII. I’m one of those kids that grew up with stockpiles of canned goods in every closet.
My mother was the original recycler–bread wrappers, aluminum foil, buttons, shoe strings…you name it and it got reused. But when my mom got Alzheimer’s and I became her caregiver, let me tell you, all that worrying and hoarding turned ugly. She fixated on things (part of the disease), and sadly, fear and worry grew with age. Being a sand-gen mom meant I had to keep everybody going–meals, laundry, meds, doctor appointments, kid’s needs filled my head and my heart and my hands. As it should be.
I’m not going to insult your intelligence by telling you to clip coupons or turn lights off in unused rooms. You know to put extra water in your soup and buy day old bread. I’m more concerned you’ll take “saving” too far and not get the things you really need.
It’s not easy, but I want you to know that you can do this. You can figure out how to handle your finances even in this tough, crazy time.
Caregivers possess a very important skill: ingenuity.
We’re problem solvers par excellent. We’ve had to figure out how to budget our time, our strength, our groceries, and even our sleep. And if you’ve gained a skill in one area, you can transfer that ability to another area.
So I’m going to give you some strange advice: Don’t go crazy with cutting back.
Because you have enough on your plate.
Because you’re probably already pretty saving.
Because you already have enough to worry about.
Because it’s best to concentrate on one or two areas where you really can save or get help.
Because your loved needs you to care more about your relationship than saving six bucks at the grocery store.
Because time is precious–even more precious than money.
It’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy you hear in the news. It’s easy to panic. But panic won’t help. Turn off the news. Put on a CD, some music, a book on tape–whistle, call a friend.
Your role as a caregiver, (which also means you’re a spouse, a daughter, a son) means that you don’t get to freak out. You have many hats to wear. Your job is to keep the big picture in perspective–managing everything from your home to your health, from your loved one’s health (including mental health), and even dealing with issues of the dying process–grief, hospice, and death. You have to know when to forget the world and just hold hands.
If you’re considering doing without something–lights, heat, filling up your car with gas, renewing your license, foregoing that doctor’s appointment, or eating red meat–ask yourself this question: Can I live with the consequences of doing without this? If the answer is no, or it’s really taking a chance, then it’s not worth the risk. You can actually wind up spending more money by doing without something necessary–and then trying to play catch up.
Caregive on a Dime:
- Is your car older and paid off? You might want to consider changing your coverage and drop your comprehensive coverage. Your insurance will go down, but realize that if your car is stolen, vandalized or weather damaged, it won’t be covered. You’ll only be covered if you “collide” with another car.
- Ask your doctor before changing your prescriptions to the generic version. Why? Not all geriatric meds work the same. I know someone who had a reaction when switching to generic–it caused major problems.
- Ask. Ask your bank if you should refinance (assuming your home isn’t paid off). Ask for a discount. Ask for assistance. You’re entitled to services you probably don’t even know about. Call up your senior center or your elder affairs office and start asking for help.
- Consolidate houses, cars, and incomes. More and more families are doing the multi-generational living thing. It makes sense–brothers, sisters, ex’s, and parents are all figuring out ways to live together.
- Ask if you qualify for any prescription programs or trials. Ask your doctor, your pharmacist, or your elder affairs office for more details.
- While coupon cutting and sales can help, a caregiver is stressed for time. Don’t kill yourself driving to three stores to get your basic groceries.
- You can get free or reduced price supplies for adult diapers, food supplements, and other home health aid products. Check at www.qualityeldercare.com, or www.elderdepot.com, or www.agingpro.com. Keep asking and keep looking for what you need.
- Choose to be happy right where you are. Live small, but find ways to give yourself a few creature comforts.
- Watch out for depresssion. If you’re on a tight budget, it’s easy just to hunker down and try not to move–but that’s not healthy. Be sure to do the simple things–take your vitamins, stretch, call a friend, and get outside at least ten minutes a day for that very necessary vitamin D.
- If things get mad, make some noise. I call it having a “Shirley MacLaine Moment.” Remember Shirley in Postcards from the Edge when she lets loose on the nurse in order to get pain medication for her daughter? Sometimes you have to let loose. Yell, demand, make noise. Don’t suffer in silence. Don’t cave in and give up. Don’t go hungry or do without needed medication. Call up a local church, shelter, senior center and tell them how bad your situation is–oh, and don’t forget those relatives you rarely ever hear from–call them too. But don’t cry wolf–a lot of people are in dire circumstances–and you may only get one shot at help, so use it wisely.
Keep life simple, appreciate life, and keep it all in perspective. You’ve lived long enough to see good times and challenging times. The only constnat is change. Please know that there are people out there who care, so don’t sit behind your front door and give up. Hope is your greatest weapon. Hope is food for your soul.