If you are acting as a caregiver for a loved one, you know that as rewarding as it is, it can be emotionally taxing as well. And when you factor in the potential stress caused by unanticipated financial burdens, you may start to feel overwhelmed. As a caregiver, you know you need to carefully budget for all of those expected costs, but you also have to plan ahead and factor in those unexpected expenses. By having a carefully crafted budget, you can save yourself time and energy and focus on caring for your loved one and for yourself.
Possible caregiving expenses
There are many types of expenses that can crop up when caring for a loved one. Though this list is not exhaustive, it might give you an idea of the kinds of financial challenges you might need to address:
- Medications, equipment and co-pays - Costs of medications, medical adaptive equipment and co-pays for doctor visits can quickly add up. Though co-pays might not seem like much for each visit, they can start putting a dent in your wallet if you are visiting many doctors and specialists.
- Home modification costs - It may be necessary to make modifications to your home to make it suitable for your loved one. Ramps to entrances, wider door frames and grab bars in bathrooms may be needed to help you and your loved one navigate around home.
- Caregiving services (respite, day services) - If you work, you may have to find services for your loved one while you are away, or you may just need a break for your emotional well-being from time to time.
- Travel/transportation fees - If your loved one is in a wheelchair or requires transportation via stretcher, travel to each doctors' appointment or outing could incur additional costs if you need to hire a service each time to get you there and home.
- Reduced work hours, reduced pay or loss of job for the caregiver - Your caregiving responsibilities may mean that you have less time for your own work or career. You might need to reduce your hours, take a lower paying position or even take a leave of absence for a while.
Resources for caregivers
Once you have a better sense of the kinds of costs that might come up while caring for your loved one, it is time to start developing a sound spending plan that takes both anticipated and unanticipated expenses into account. There are a number of military benefits and resources available to help you take some of the financial stress out of caregiving.
TRICARE home health benefits - If your loved one is covered under TRICARE, he or she may be eligible to receive home health care benefits. The TRICARE website has a wealth of information and can help you determine the benefits your loved one may be eligible for.
Medicare and Medicaid programs - If your loved one meets eligibility requirements for Medicare or Medicaid, financial coverage may be available for medical costs, transportation, respite care, home modifications and equipment expenses.
Financial counseling support - If you live on or near your military installation, you can reach out to the installation personal financial management program. A financial counselor can sit down with you and help you develop a spending plan that works for you while taking into account those often unanticipated expenses. The program also offers workshops and classes that might be helpful as well. If you are not located near an installation, you can also access financial counseling services through Military OneSource by calling 800-342-9647, or through the Military and Family Life Counselor program. Contact information for MFLCs can be accessed through your military and family support center. All of these services are provided at no cost to service members and their families.
Military Relief Societies - Each service has a private, nonprofit organization that assists families in times of need. Areas of assistance may include emergency transportation; help with medical bills, child care expenses, food, rent, utilities and other household bills; vehicle repair; and family emergency assistance. For more information on the relief societies, please contact the Army Emergency Relief - AER, the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society - NMCRS,or the Air Force Aid Society - AFAS.
Take advantage of the resources that are out there. Caregiving is such a demanding responsibility. Worrying about your finances shouldn't keep you from caring for your loved one and for yourself. If you also find that you need some support while managing your role as caregiver, consider reaching out for help. You can access non-medical counseling services through Military OneSource or through the MFLC program.