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Supporting Family Caregivers: Kaelyn’s Story

Kaelyn is a 54-year-old mother of two. In 2018, Kaelyn’s father, Joseph, was diagnosed with a stage three glioblastoma. Just three months after his diagnosis, Kaelyn’s mother, Dominique, suffered a fall and broke her hip. Living just a few miles from her parents’ home, she quickly became their primary caretaker: scheduling and driving to doctor’s appointments, helping with grocery shopping, household chores, and personal care for her parents. The level of care Joseph and Dominique needed quickly became more than Kaelyn could handle with a full-time job, so she left her work to care for her parents. Kaelyn describes her experience here:

“I wanted to be able to care for my parents as best I could, and knew it wouldn’t be possible while working a 40-50 hour work week. I know it was the right decision, but it created a lot of stress for my family. My husband and I were getting ready to send our daughter off for her freshman year of college; we wanted so badly to share in her excitement, but some of this was overshadowed by the loss of my income and the costs of my parents’ medical and health needs. Our financial situation created a lot of anxiety, made worse by the experience of watching the people I love suffer both physically and cognitively as they became increasingly isolated by illness and immobility.”

Caregiving can be a beautiful and rewarding experience, and one which often comes with significant financial and emotional burdens. Of those aging outside of an institutional setting, only 3 in 10 pay for care from aides or other in-home help; the majority of caregiving in the United States is informal and unpaid. Family caregivers experience higher rates of stress, anxiety, fatigue, depression, substance abuse, reduced immune responses, and more chronic conditions than the general population. Many caregivers suffer with their own health ailments while trying to take care of loved ones, and are often left unsupported and unsalaried, with lost income averaging over $300,000.

Deteriorating health, and medical bills, along with income lost to time spent caregiving can create a cycle for families; as younger generations use or lose retirement funds caring for aging parents, they are less likely to be able to afford paid care as they age and need support, placing that burden on their own children or loved ones, and creating a generational financial spiral.

There are ways to help slow or stop this cycle of health and financial loss by supporting our family caregivers and offering the tools they need to maintain personal care and well-being while still experiencing the rewards of caring for a loved one.

While the burden on caregivers in the United States is heavy, there is plenty we can do to help:

  • Call your representatives and urge them to support the Credit for Caring Act – a bipartisan bill which would provide working family caregivers with up to $5,000 in federal credit.
  • Take advantage of local programs and resources, like adult day care or caregiver education programs to help relieve some of the caregiving load and offer knowledge, guidance, and confidence for new caregivers.
  • Make sure your caregiver is supported. Online or in-person groups can help combat isolation and loneliness for caregivers.
  • Ensure the caregivers in your life are taking care of themselves. Don’t let your loved ones forgo their own doctors’ visits, sleep, care, or mental health.

Making sure caregivers feel supported can help relieve the stress and emotional burden of caregiving. Take advantage of the Aging at Home Association benefits and resources to help lighten the caregiver burden and provide your family members with the tools they need to best support your aging.