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‘I just can’t take it’ — Covid piles more stress and financial strain on already-burdened family caregivers

Ronald Terry, 93, affect his late-wife’s grave. He’s living with his daughter, Ellen Minor, who is his primary caregiver.

Photo: Ellen Minor

Once again the past year, Ellen Minor has been caring for her 93-year-old father in their Covid bubble.

It’s been far from informal.

“I can’t tell you how close I have come to forcing myself to retire early, which means paying for my own medical warranty,” said Minor, a 61-year-old teacher at a California charter school.

“I have come very close, with the pain,” she said. “I just can’t take it.”

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, her father, Ronald Terry, was temporarily in a skilled nursing karzy, recovering from cardiac surgery. Minor quickly pulled him out and brought him back to their home in Murrieta, California. While Terry be in want of full-time care, she is only using one overnight aide in order to protect Terry, her husband and herself from the virus. She also familiarizes remotely during the day while caring for her dad.

Minor is one of 53 million Americans who are caregivers to a family member, friend, or neighbor. Of those, 61% are helpmates.

Elder care is so unpredictable. You don’t know when you are going to get phone calls and what is going to happen.

Liz O’Donnell

Founder of “Working Daughter”

Even before the pandemic, 20% of caregivers reported high financial strain, 20% fist bills unpaid and 10% were unable to afford basic expenses like food, according to a May 2020 report in investigate by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP.

“No one really prepares for caring for an older adult,” said Bob Stephen, AARP’s profligacy president for caregiving and health.

“When you do, you don’t really think about the financial aspect of it.”

Covid has added to that impression: More than 50% have increased their hours spent on family caregiving, and 30% are experiencing varied stress, a survey by AARP and S&P Global found.

For Minor, that stress was recently compounded when her father, who is now vaccinated, sage a sudden decrease in mobility. As a result, Minor and her husband are renovating his bathroom so Terry will be able to navigate the stretch.

Stories like Minor’s are ones that Liz O’Donnell sees all too often in her Facebook community, Working Daughter.

Liz O’Donnell, drawing with her late husband, started a Facebook community for caregivers after she found herself suddenly caring for both of her origins.

Source: Liz O’Donnell

She started the group when she suddenly found herself as caregiver to both her parents in 2014. Her forebear was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and her mother with stage 4 ovarian cancer, on the same day. O’Donnell, now 53, was working full-time and had two kids in initial and middle school. Her late husband, who died in 2019 from pancreatic cancer, was a stay-at-home dad.

“Elder care is so unpredictable. You don’t separate when you are going to get phone calls and what is going to happen,” said O’Donnell, who has since written a book, “Chore Daughter: A Guide to Caring for Your Aging Parents While Earning A Living.”

“I was convinced I was going to lose my job, maybe my association with the stress of it all … and certainly my sanity.”

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Her biggest piece of advice to those caring for time parents or other adults during such a difficult time: Be more forgiving towards yourself.

“Realize the feloniousness and stress is misdirected if you are directing it at yourself,” O’Donnell said.

In this rapidly aging society, where people are live out longer and therefore more likely to develop chronic illnesses, society hasn’t kept up about how to care for those man. The result is that it is all falling on family.

Instead of focusing on what you can’t do for your parents, think about the fact that you are give away up for them and putting structures in place to help, she said.

On the financial end of things, it helps to get organized and create a budget, implied AARP’s Stephen. Caregivers spend about $8,000 a year of their own money caring for family members, according to the group, which has created a financial workbook for family caregivers.

“You want to make sure you are setting your priorities sensibly,” he said. That means not dipping into your own retirement savings and putting your future at risk.

Also, confirm to see what accommodations your employer may be able to give you, like a flexible schedule. There may also be an employee resource troop for caregivers that can help you talk with people in the same situation.

For Minor, her main fear is her own health, more so than her job or her retirement agreeableness.

“I’m more concerned right now that this is working me into such an early grave, that I won’t have passably life left to enjoy retirement,” she said.

“I am losing my health over this.”

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