A lot of us spend some time in our lives caring for another human being, whether it's a spouse, children, parents or grandchildren. There are a lot of costs that can add up fast--some that you might not have even considered. I have raised 4 kids, had numerous pets (yes they have hidden costs, too!) and also I have taken care of my mother in her last years. Fortunately, my mother made sure I would be able to care for her without it being a financial burden on me, but I have heard so many stories from others that don't have the emotional support from family let alone the financial support.
There Are Unexpected Ongoing Costs - When you have children, the ongoing costs of diapers, higher grocery bills and medical needs can be overwhelming. They seem to never stop. It is the same way when you care for a parent or take in a sibling you didn't know you were going to be caring for. You need to prepare for your utilities to increase as well. There will be travel expenses at times, education and in some cases legal expenses. One thing that is a growing statistic in this country is grandparents raising their grandchildren. It can truly be a difficult and financially draining situation to be thrown into as well. You may have had your life budgeted a certain way and having new little ones to care for can really change things financially, physically and emotionally.
You Sacrifice Your Needs and Your Work - When you have to take care of someone else, there are a lot of times you will put your own needs aside to be there for your loved one. Going out to dinner and a movie might get put on the back burner more often not only because of cost, but time. It takes a lot of your time to take care of someone else. In fact, you may miss work because you may not have care for your loved one at some point and you will have to be there. Just like when your kids are sick, you have to be available when things come up with others you care for. If you work from home, you still have to divide your time to meet the needs of someone else who depends on you. Even if the person you are caring for has their own job, if you are responsible for them and they need a ride to work because their car broke down, or they forgot something important they need for school, in a family situation you are there when they need you. Caregivers spend about 80 minutes less per day on paid work and 32 percent of caregivers have left a job because of the overwhelming demands of caregiving. Whether its your children or another member you are caring for, a lot of times you learn to adjust, but that learning curve can take a long time and for others, it's can be crushing financially and emotionally.
You Pay Less Attention to Your Health - Along the lines of sacrificing your needs, if you care for someone else a lot of times there are a lot of medical needs they may have, and costs can be high, so you put off going to the doctor when you have the sniffles because of the cost. Also, you may have lack of sleep, or the ability to eat right because you are constantly making sure someone else is sleeping well and eating right. You may find yourself putting off getting a check up, tests you may need or ignore your aches and pains because you are too busy with someone else. All are hard things on your body and your long term health care.
Your Savings Dwindles (or Disappears) - When you are a caregiver, you may find if you aren't prepared for a lot of the hidden costs, you find you will have less money to put into your savings or you may find you are dipping into your savings to meet the needs of the extra costs. This may help you short term to keep on going with your extra costs, however, this could impact your financial future for years to come if you are not careful.
You may not have much chance to prepare for a caregiver situation you may find yourself in. While you may not be financially ahead of the game when it starts, maybe knowing what can happen can help you make a plan to head off some of the issues that you may face. In some instances, you can get some help from your job. Ask HR about any employee benefits aimed at caregivers. Check out government and community resources and be sure to ask for help from others when you need it from family and friends. Sometimes a little help can go a long way in helping you to deal with not only the ongoing costs of caregiving, but the emotional ones as well.--Jen Lush