The 5 Players Who Should be on Every Caregiver’s Team

  by Tyler Curtis

by Shelley Seagler

It‘s been estimated that nearly 66 million people in the United States provide care to a family member.  Yet many people feel unprepared and unqualified when they are thrust into the role of a caregiver.  Luckily, there are experts who can help you with the myriad of responsibilities, decisions, and feelings involved with taking care of a loved one. 

1.  Geriatric Case Manager

A Geriatric Case Manager can help you and your loved one manage all the moving pieces that are part of the transition from independent living to full-time care.  They can thoroughly evaluate the situation, help make important decisions, and offer valuable assistance.  The job of a Geriatric Case manger is to be an expert on the resources available to you, especially those in your community.  They provide a broad level of assistance, which may include things like arranging Meals-on-Wheels, transportation, and nursing services.

Typically, Geriatric Case Managers charge an hourly fee, which is not covered by Medicare or Medicaid.  (Some long-term care insurance policies offer similar services.)  However, even if you have to pay for it out of your own pocket, you may find enormous benefit in meeting with a Geriatric Case Manager, who can help you deal with the complexities of providing care.  The National Association of Professional Geriatric Case Managers is an excellent starting place to learn more.

2.  Financial and Legal Professionals

The financial ramifications of providing care to a family member can be significant.  A recent study by Genworth Financial, found that the majority of primary caregivers contribute financially to cover expenses, oftentimes by dipping into retirement funds and savings accounts, reducing their overall savings an average of 63%.  If you are considering withdrawing funds from your retirement account, you should contact a CPA to discuss potential penalties and taxes.   A CPA can also let you know if you are eligible for any tax deductions as a primary caregiver.

As a caregiver, you may be responsible for ensuring that your loved one’s affairs are in order.  This could be limited to making sure bills are paid each month.  However, it could include helping to prepare a will or an advanced directive.  In some cases, you may also need to establish a medical power of attorney.  Admittedly, these topics may not be high on your list of pleasant conversations, but it’s important that certain decisions are legally documented.  There are online resources to help you with these matters, but if it’s financially feasible, it is best to consult with an attorney.

3. Respite Care Professional

The purpose of respite care is to provide relief to primary caregivers.  Respite care professionals provide temporary care to your loved one, either at home or in a facility, so that you can get a much deserved and needed break.  Respite care can last a few hours or several weeks and the price will vary depending on how much care is received and where it is administered.  An excellent source for information is the ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center .

Many long-term care insurance policies offer respite care, as does the Department of Veterans Affairs.  (You can read more about VA respite care benefits here.)  Many disability and disease specific organizations, like the Alzheimer’s Association offer assistance and you may also want to check with local churches or service organizations to see if they offer respite care services.

4.  Primary Care Physician  

When you’re busy and stressed, it’s easy to delay routine check-ups.  But more than ever, you must focus on your own health.  You will probably find yourself eating on-the-go, skipping workouts, and not getting enough sleep.   Additionally, the physical and emotional demands you’re under will make you more susceptible to illness and depression.  (Learn more about caregiving and depression.)  You should see your doctor regularly and make sure he or she is aware that you are providing care to a loved one.  A good primary care physician is the best partner to help you maintain your health.

5.  A Mental Health Professional

As a caregiver, you are asked to meet the physical, mental, financial, and emotional needs of someone else – there is no doubt that it can be overwhelming.  And when you’re taking care of a family member, there can be an elevated level of emotional complexity.  It’s crucial to have a strong system of support.  In addition to staying connected to friends and family, you may benefit from online or community support groups.  The Family Caregiver Alliance, the Well Spouse Organization,, and the National Alliance for Caregiving offer online forums, as well as information to connect with people in your community.

You may prefer to meet one-on-one with a mental health profession.   Your primary care physician should be able to recommend a psychologist or psychiatrist and many insurance policies offer mental health coverage.  There are also a number of therapists and counselors who charge a sliding scale fee based on your income.

With approximately 10,000 Baby Boomers reaching the age of 65 each day, we can only expect that more and more of us will be called on to provide care to a family member.  It’s important to educate yourself and become familiar with the resources available to you.  You should also create a powerful team of experts that you can rely on to help you provide care to your loved one while still taking as much care of yourself as possible.

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