Went to Bed Carefree, Woke Up a Caregiver

by Pressy Long, CFP® on Thursday April 06, 2023
Posted in Category: Budgeting, Estate Planning, Family
Tagged with : ,

caregiver with sick child

Life is uncertain. Life is unpredictable. We’ve heard this many times but most of us never really understand the true meaning until something happens to change the course of our lives.

Two years ago, my “life as usual” suddenly transformed into “life as a caregiver.” There I was a full-time mom of two kids, with a full-time job doing the work I loved. I had dreams and goals for myself and my family. I would see my kids start their lives after college, do some much-needed renovation on our 25-year-old house, and visit family that I hadn’t seen in years. My list was never-ending.

Then one day, all that changed when my son was diagnosed with a debilitating disease, and I slid into my new caregiver role. To say it was overwhelming is an understatement. I was definitely not ready emotionally or financially for this life-changing event. In a short time, I found out how much my finances would be affected and the strain it would cause. I want to share some basic personal finance tips I found helpful when it comes to managing money as a caregiver.

Revisit your budget

Your current spending plan was created for your life before you became a caregiver. So, it’s important to update your budget to reflect your new circumstances. Your household income may be affected if you decide to take some time off or work part time. On the expense side, you’ll be surprised to see how many more new expenses may pop up like medical supplies, equipment, and larger expenses like home modifications. Your grocery bill may also increase. This was the case for me since my son had to be on a special diet. Everyone’s situation is unique, so starting off with a good understanding of where your money is going will help you make wise financial decisions, minimize any negative impacts, and keep you moving forward on your long-term financial goals.

Bulk up your emergency fund

I was proud of what I had saved in my emergency fund. It took me a good bit of time and sacrifice, but I felt comfortable with my financial safety net. Then came the medical bills, one after the other. A never-ending flow from doctors, specialists, medical facilities, you name it. Before I knew it, my prized safety cushion was deflated. Although, credit card or other loans are an option, it only leads to additional financial stress in the long term. Having a well-funded emergency fund will give you peace of mind, and having one less thing to worry about can go a long way in a caregiver’s life. Here are a few tips to build your emergency fund.

Update your estate plan

Honestly, looking at my estate plan was the last thing on my mind. I had a long list of things I needed to do daily, and it all focused on taking care of my son’s needs and keeping him comfortable. But I realized how important it was when a friend asked me, “Who will be the caregiver when you’re not around to do it?” That question shifted my focus to the future from only the now. I needed to review my will, medical power of attorney, and consider setting up a trust to take care of my son’s future needs. Your estate plan will be unique to your situation, but it’s important to meet with an estate planning attorney and discuss your specifics.

Life is unpredictable and life as a caregiver is even more unpredictable. Budgeting, saving, and securing your legal documents isn’t going to change that, but it may provide some calm in the storm. From one caregiver to another, keep your spirits high and don’t forget to take good care of yourself too!

To learn more about “Caring for Your Finances” visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.


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