Practical Goals for Family Caregivers in 2021
Practical Goals for Family Caregivers in 2021
I received the call to caregiving on January 1st, 2020. At 6:30 a.m. my phone rang and my stomach dropped. Holding the phone with one hand, I managed to perform a quick change from my PJs to a complete outfit and begin driving my car before the person on the other line could even ask, “Can you come?”
Like everyone else, I had no idea what the year had in store. And like many other caregivers, the stresses and fears of 2020 magnified how hard it is to maintain loving care when we’re already spinning so many other proverbial plates. I’ve brought this first-hand experience into my work running a business that helps families tackle the financial challenges of long-term care needs. I hope I can provide some perspective for making practical goals as a family caregiver in 2021, and, at the very least, help you feel more prepared to handle life’s unexpected challenges.
No doubt this new year feels different. With the pandemic going on for almost a year at this point, many of us are longing for a fresh, more positive direction. Traditional goal-setting may feel challenging, if not impossible, as we prioritize what is realistic and won’t require more from us after a year of being pushed to our limits. Below, I share the positive effects of goal-setting and identify three realistic goals aimed at providing maximum benefit to your efforts as a family caregiver.
Why is it important to set goals?
Goals are motivating. Our brains respond to goal-setting by increasing our inspiration. When we set a goal, we form a representation of achievement within our brains. People who set goals have more motivation to complete tasks that lead them to success. This is known as intrinsic motivation--behavior that is driven from within ourselves. This type of motivation creates a strong drive for task-driven behavior, increases our interest in the behaviors we need to manifest to succeed, and improves our ability to retain what we learn as we navigate the journey toward reaching our goal. Basically, we are switched “on.”
What are some practical goals for family caregivers in 2021?
We don’t need to overwhelm our workloads right now. Setting boundaries and committing to changes that simplify or reduce our responsibilities will help protect our mental health and prevent caregiver burnout in 2021. If you prioritize any goals this year, I recommend preparing essential documents, getting professional guidance on paying for care, and connecting with caregiver support networks. In addition to helping you prepare for or face the common challenges of caregiving, these goals should also bring some peace of mind and balance to your life.
Goal #1: Prepare and gather essential documents.
I’m referring to those very important documents that lay out the plans for how medical and financial matters should be handled in the event of incapacitation. For caregivers, these documents are priceless because they detail your loved one’s wishes and offer guidelines for decision-making as their health declines.
This was one of the first tasks, after my loved one’s initial health crisis, that instilled fear in my caregiving situation. Both my loved one and myself are in our late thirties. While we knew it was smart to have these documents in place, we were operating under the false assumption that we had plenty of time to get it done. Unfortunately when you get to the point where this information is needed, it’s already too late. We were both scared straight and got our documentation in order right away. Working with an attorney, the process was surprisingly simple and fast. Now I feel confident knowing that matters will be taken care of in the event of my loved one’s incapacitation and my own.
A tip: Work with an attorney. They understand both the practical applications and the legal ramifications of this paperwork. They can identify the right decisions for you and your loved one at the drafting stage. The fees are slight when measured against the potential costs of not having any forms or having forms that don’t reflect your individual wishes. Without this documentation in place, you risk outcomes that can have a negative impact on your life and legacy. Learn more about these essential documents and what they do on my business page.
Goal #2: Make a plan for paying for care.
Despite the aid we might receive from governmental programs such as Medicaid, Medicare, or Veteran’s benefits, and the help that may come from insurance, the majority of caregivers spend thousands of dollars a year out-of-pocket on care expenses. Even though this is a substantial issue, financial aid and compensation for family caregivers remains scant. As a result, we carry the financial burden of our loved one’s care and waste time trying to navigate the systems and find answers.
Fortunately, financial planners and advisors as well as elder law attorneys can provide valuable insight on options for paying for care. For example, my work takes into consideration the advice you would find from these professionals while bringing in guidance you would normally receive in social services and home equity to provide a comprehensive view of all the ways your money can be unlocked. Whichever direction you choose to take, the goal is to find someone that can answer your questions and coordinate your next steps--saving you time and money in the process.
Goal #3: Connect with the right kind of support.
Caregivers need smart support. There are three resources that are of the greatest help to family caregivers: More time, more money, and emotional support. Nurturing your emotional wellbeing often goes beyond simply finding someone to talk to. As important and helpful as it can be to talk to a friend, I recommend seeking support that can provide meaningful guidance on time management, problem-solving techniques, and finding resources that address your unique challenges.
There are many networks of caregiver coaches and educators that are available to help you. These individuals have been trained and certified to provide the right kind of support for family caregivers and oftentimes have been through or are currently in a caregiving situation themselves. Many offer one-on-one virtual support. A search for “caregiver coach” on Google is a good starting place. Like the other two goals, this step can save you time in the long run and will ensure you receive guidance that’s customized to your experience.
If you feel stressed right now, you are not alone. While goal-setting may feel like one more thing, these simple and practical suggestions offer a great return on investment. And goal-setting itself can contribute to a more positive and motivated mindset.
About the contributor
Kimberly Whiter is CEO for Elder Care Solutions. She has had a varied career including practicing as a medical laboratory scientist, serving as an administrative leader in higher education, and finally joining Elder Care Solutions as Cofounder and CEO. She brings expertise in interprofessional and interdisciplinary work, providing key perspective for coordinating Elder Care Solution's work among the variety of professionals involved in elder care decisions.
After experiencing caregiving first-hand, she has successfully positioned Elder Care Solutions to provide maximum benefit to family caregivers. Her work focuses on empowering caregivers and seniors with authority, confidence, and peace of mind through solutions for overcoming the financial challenges with long-term care. Elder Care Solutions is unique in that its sole focus is providing a bird's-eye view of how long-term care costs can be mitigated.
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