Between prescriptions, budgeting multiple schedules and the countless responsibilities in-between, caregiving can quickly grow overwhelming. Our panel of insiders weighs in on the most important aspects to bear in mind and create an effective plan for you individual needs.

What are three challenges that you see caregivers struggling with in your field?

April Schneider: Becoming a caregiver can be incredibly challenging. Without proper planning, it can be difficult to take on the financial requirements that come along with the new role. Conversations about aging and elder care can be very emotional and difficult, which is why many people avoid having them. However, it’s never too early to begin talking about “what if?” scenarios with your family. By looking into what might be necessary down the road, both from a time and financial perspective, you can start to get an idea of what you may need to do in the future. Whether aging parents need to come live with you or you spend more time traveling to visit them, it’s critical to have these conversations. If they’re difficult to start or maintain, a financial professional can help.

When caregiving becomes a full-time responsibility, you may need to cut back on hours at work, or even stop working entirely. If this is the case, you may lose your health insurance or other benefits, such as employer contributions or retirement accounts, which is why it’s so important to plan for these costs and savings needs.

Making decisions on behalf of a loved one is emotionally and mentally taxing. If you do become a caregiver, don't forget to take care of yourself. There is a lot of stress with becoming a caregiver. Find time to relax, exercise, sleep or find other ways to reduce stress.

Steve Pacicco: Time is precious. Caregivers struggle with time management. They are faced with many responsibilities and often have to hunt down information or people to help, which takes away from their primary objective – providing care for a patient or loved one.

Managing their own health due to the stress and burden that comes with the role of caregiving. Caregivers are constantly dealing with a great deal of emotional distress and psychological stressors that they carry throughout the whole day – on the job and at home. Clinicians become emotionally attached to residents and struggle when that human connection is lost due to discharge or death. At home, caregivers feel a great sense of responsibility in caring for the life of a loved one and often don’t feel well equipped for the demands that come with the job. In all cases, caregivers often put their own needs last and suffer emotional and physical hardships as a result.

Information overload is a daily struggle. With health care regulations constantly changing and the health insurance system growing more complex, caregivers are challenged to keep up. Plus, they have to manage all pertinent information for each patient in their care – because when they don’t have all the information they need, medication mishaps or missed care treatments can result in costly and harmful consequences for the caregiver and patient. Getting access to the right information at the right time, in an easy to digest format to safely and effectively care for patients, is a constant challenge.

What is one tactic that will make a caregiver’s life easier?

AS: The stress of becoming a caregiver can affect every other area of your life, which is why it’s so important to take care of yourself in order to provide the best support possible to others. When you return to your caregiving responsibilities, you’ll often feel renewed and provide better care for your loved one.

SP: If you can manage information more effectively by leveraging Electronic Health Record technology, it will reduce your stress and give you more time with patients. Electronic Health Record systems enable caregivers to access a comprehensive view of the patient at any time, from any place to deliver prompt care when time is of the essence.

What is the biggest safety risk you’ve seen with caregivers and their loved ones?

AS: As risks and needs change with age, so does the need to protect loved ones from financial exploitation. Scammers prey on elders, especially their trust, and knowing how to spot red flags can make all the difference. As examples, if you notice sudden changes in your loved one’s bank accounts, they seem confused about their account balance or activity, or you suspect substandard care or unpaid bills, something could be going on. These are just some of the examples of red flags. Your loved one should speak with their lawyer while they are able to make decisions and choices, such as naming an attorney-in-fact in a Power of Attorney.

SP: Year after year, medication complications and incidents are the top safety risk for aging seniors and their caregivers. As patients transition between caregivers, it becomes increasingly difficult to manage medications prescribed by different practitioners. If there is a negative interaction between two medications or dosages are missed, the patient’s life is at risk.

To minimize this risk, caregivers need to have a complete list of all prescribed medications with instructions and understand the implications of possible drug interactions or missed dosages. Caregivers also need to ensure they are educated on what to do should a critical situation arise so they can react swiftly if needed.

How can caregivers prepare their home or facility to provide quality care?

AS: I can’t stress the importance of financial planning enough. By planning ahead for the expenses of becoming a caregiver, you and your family will be better prepared to tackle necessary home renovations, such as installing ramps or accessible equipment throughout the house, as well as increased everyday costs of buying more groceries or driving more often.

SP: It’s important for caregivers to participate in discharge care planning prior to admitting a patient to a nursing home or taking a loved one home. The successful transition from one place of care to another requires a great deal of information sharing and planning. During discharge, caregivers should request documentation like medication instructions, pharmacist information, community resources and who to contact if you have questions when you get home.

The more information you have about the patient’s condition and treatment plan, the better prepared you will be to maintain their quality of life.