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Caregivers facing tough financial times need better options

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No one likes to talk about money and that’s why so many of us have money issues.

Caregiving can leave one financially devastated. I found myself in this position over the last few years, and I finally took concrete action to rectify my situation. Why did I put it off so long? I thought I could fix it on my own, pay down my credit card debt the old- fashioned way, through dogged dedication and hard work.

The one thing I’ve learned in the post-caregiving phase of my life is that life doesn’t go on pause while you are tending to an ill loved one or grieving over a family member’s death. In my case, I’ve had legitimate expenses like replacing a rotting porch and replacing a busted water heater (that my home warranty wouldn’t cover unless I replaced the pipes in the ENTIRE house.) I took a few trips, but no fancy overseas adventures. I didn’t live on rice and beans, but I wasn’t slurping down caviar, either.

I’ve always been pretty good at managing my debt, but things were not going in the right direction, and I had to set aside my ego and look at my options. I decided on a personal loan, to consolidate my credit card debt and establish one reasonable monthly payment. I had a lot of trepidation about doing it, but the process went fairly smoothly and I feel more in control of my financial situation. In hindsight, I probably should have done it sooner.

In an ideal world, caregivers would have greater access to financial support, so they wouldn’t have to go virtually bankrupt just because they are taking care of a loved one. It’s insane that the government thinks the average, middle-class person can be a full-time or even part-time caregiver and still earn enough to pay the bills without sinking into debt. And that’s if you are able to care for your loved one at home. Facility care can run thousands of dollars per month, and only the wealthy can afford that on a long-term basis.

There are no easy answers, but as more people find themselves taking on the caregiving role, we are going to have to find some practical solutions. Finances are one of life’s most stressful issues and the last thing a caregiver needs is any more stress!

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