Taking care of an elderly loved one can be exhausting and stressful. Caregivers often lack outside help and shoulder all the responsibilities of the elderly in addition to the responsibilities of the caregiver’s own life. The stress of care-giving can be reduced significantly by proper planning. Caregivers should also consider taking a few precautionary measures to de-stress in order to avoid burnout, injury or illness which will result in their inability to take care of their loved one.

Proper planning involves identifying potential issues that may arise due to incapacity, and setting up the steps to resolving such issues. Legal issues must not be overlooked as it can be a source of significant stress for caregivers because legal issues, such as petitioning for guardianship of an incapacitated elderly, can become time-consuming and costly. The following are two major legal issues seniors and caregivers must consider:

  1. Setting up the proper legal authority for health care and financial decision making by a caregiver. A health care proxy is a necessary legal document to secure the proper legal authority of a caregiver to make health care decisions of the incapacitated. A power of attorney on the other hand is necessary to secure the proper legal authority to make financial decisions. Absent a good power of attorney and healthcare proxy, in the event of incapacity, it is usually necessary to petition a court for guardianship, and that is a costly and time-consuming process.
  2. Setting up a plan to pay for long-term care. Long-term care costs for home care or nursing home care can be exorbitant. Long-term care insurance may be an appropriate plan to pay for such costs, but, these policies cannot be purchased after a long-term care illness. Therefore, Medicaid (not Medicare) is usually the only alternative to pay for long-term care costs. However, Medicaid eligibility is based on the income and resources of the elderly, and therefore prior planning is often necessary in order to qualify for these benefits.

In addition to proper planning, caregivers should consider some of the following practical ways to de-stress:

  1. Take a break every day. Make sure you have some down time to relax, whether it’s watching television, reading the newspaper, or calling a friend. Make sure you do at least one thing for yourself every day.
  2. Take a break every week. If possible, get out of the house at least once a week to do something you want to do — go to the movies, have dinner with friends, whatever works for you. If you cannot get someone to cover for you, have friends over to your house.

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