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Pros and Cons of Being a Caregiver

Caregiver for elderly personIt is always challenging when the health of a family member starts to fail. We were reminded of this when my husband’s grandmother fell and broke her hip recently. She lives out of town and in a house that is not very appropriate for a person with limited mobility. At this point, we are not sure what type of long term care she will need, but having a family member act as a caregiver is a likely scenario. If a relative decides to take on a caregiver role, there are many pros and cons to consider.

Pros of Being a Caregiver

Peace of Mind-This is your relative that has loved and taken care of you. There is a certain pride and honor in caring for a relative who helped you become the person you are, and your relatives will likely be happier receiving care from you rather than a stranger. You also know the standard of care that is being provided to your loved one.

Less Expense-Being a caregiver for a relative would be much less expensive than hiring an outsider or paying for a long term care facility.

Bonding-When we leave home, we are often determined to do our own thing, but older relatives hold the keys to family history and traditions. I often wish I’d paid more attention to my Grandma’s recipes or gardening tips when she was alive. This could be your chance to figure out all the family secrets.

Cons of Being a Caregiver

Giving Up Personal Freedoms-When you take on the role of a caregiver, you are giving up your own personal time. It will be hard for you to travel or take time off. While you might feel an obligation or even desire to take care of older relatives, you might also have the conflicting emotion of resentment.

Extra Work– Many people think of caregivers as tending to the daily medical and personal needs of a patient. This could include cooking, helping with bathing and personal grooming, and getting dressed. You might also have to clean house, buy extra groceries,wash someone else’s clothes, and run more errands. When my Grandpa came to live with my parents, he often sent my mother out to buy his chewing tobacco. She was mortified, but it was easier to keep him happy than argue.

Guilt-Although you might love your relative more than anyone, you probably have not had training to deal with many of the issues you will be facing. You could easily hurt yourself trying to lift another adult, and it might be hard to adjust to changing personalities that often occur with dementia. The same Grandpa that sent my mom for chewing tobacco also became obsessed with constipation. If he wasn’t regular for a couple of days, he demanded an enema. My mom ended up hiring a nurse to help with bathroom needs, but I know she felt some guilt for having to do that.

Becoming a caregiver might be a good fit for you and a loved one in need of help, but it’s important to be aware of the pros and cons. It is also important to have a plan in case you are unable to meet everyone’s needs. Maybe you have other relatives that can help, or you might be able to hire someone for a few hours a day to allow some personal time. There really is no right or wrong answer, but having some ideas about what to expect can make a big difference in quality of life for all involved.

Have you had experience with caregiving? Could you take care of elderly parents or in-laws?


About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. I’m not sure that I am cut out for being a caregiver. I struggle enough with managing my own life that I couldn’t imagine losing even more time to become a caregiver. Having said that though, I am sure if push came to shove and it was someone that I really cared about then everything else would fall to the wayside.

    • I think many people fail to plan for old age and then their children have to take care of them. Maybe that’s how it should be or maybe not, but I know it happens very often.

  2. We are a ways off from this, but my wife and I are both the oldest children in our families, so I know that we would be the ones to take care of our parents one day. Get this though: my grandparents (85 years old) had my great-aunt (95 years old) move in with them instead of a nursing home. I think that’s awesome, and it keeps my grandparents active and energetic too!

    • I think it can work well if the older person has a good mind. It’s really hard when dementia and personality changes happen.

  3. I definitely respect caregivers and I truly believe they are doing some of the most important work. I know that it can mean significant personal sacrifices and sometimes caregivers fall into their role because there literally is no one else who can or will do it.

    • That is a real mental challenge when you feel obligate to take care of a parent you maybe don’t want to or don’t like that much. I’ve seen people be really miserable and often mean to their elderly parents because of that resentment. I hope I plan really well so no one has to feel like that with me someday.

  4. I have always planned on taking care of my parents if the time came. I would be willing to make financial sacrifices to do so if it came down to it. My parents have done so much for me that I could never repay them!

  5. I think we’re going to see increasing issues of this as the Boomer population gets older. All of our parents are so far away from us, with the closest being 1,000 miles away that I don’t know how we’d do it – though we do want to be there and provide care for them if they do need it. I believe a key part of this, if you’re able to, is having the discussion with your family members of what to do if the time comes. That can be easier said than do though at times. 🙂

    • That was one thing Jim’s grandma said that I found interesting. She said they had always been private and it was really hard to ask for help. I’m sure it is but scrambling around after something happens is harder IMO.

  6. Depending on the type of illness, being a caregiver can be a huge emotional and psychological drain. We’ve had two situations in my family where a family member cared long term (1 yr.+) for a family member with an illness. In one case, it was because of the onset of dementia. It’s terrible to see a family member who has been so vibrant waste away and become unresponsive. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care for them, it’s just really tough.

  7. I’d have to agree with Brian. Depending on the condition of the person being cared for and what has to be done to take care of him or her…it can very physically and emotionally draining. It is often a tough circumstance.

  8. I too wish I had spent more quality time with my grandparents, listening to the wise things they had to say. I’ve never been in the role of a caregiver, but my mom has done it with several different people. I think having her focus on other people is a way she can avoid taking care of herself. I don’t know what will happen when and if my parents are ever in that situation. Currently they are both alive with living spouse, but there isn’t a ton of family in Michigan to take care of them if something happens.

    • I’m not sure if I’d be the best caregiver. My Mom and I pick at each other, and I’m not sure if that would get better or worse with time. We all think my Dad will go first, but you can always be surprised I guess.

  9. I’ve never had any experience with taking care of elderly parents or inlaws, but I’m sure that experience will come with time. I’d rather take care of my parents personally.

    • I think most of us would. My Mom was a saint with my Grandpa and then my Grandma, but it also was a huge mental and physical strain.

      • Hey Kim, both sets of my great grandparents made their ways to homes. I don’t want that to happen to my parents. Although it may be a mental strain, I hear that staying with children slows the pace of diseases like Alzheimer and others. I’m going to make sure my mom and dad live happy throughout their old age. Thanks for the reply, I’ll see ya later!

  10. When my grandma had Parkinson’s disease, she had lots of care givers come and stay at her house for extended amounts of time. I don’t really know how those people do it. There is a special spot in Heaven for anyone willing to take on that kind of burden.

  11. Like John mentioned, this is something we are going to see more and more of as our boomers continue to age. It’s a topic that popular with my clients too. My older clients want to make sure their wishes are honored when they can no longer make decisions for themselves and want to minimize any financial hardship for their kids. Their kids want to figure out how to care for their parents, still send their kids to college and live the lives they planned as well. It’s a complicated topic and one too many families avoid until someone needs assistance.

    • I know no one wants to think of themselves as old an infirm, but the more you talk about it now, the easier it is when it happens. My Mom has said for years that she just wants to go into a nursing home when she can’t take care of herself and she has insurance to do it. I’m sure we’d keep her at home as long as possible, but it’s good to know she’s OK with the next step.

  12. My cousin said she brought this up, pretty much point blank over dinner in the backyard at her parent’s a few weeks ago. She said it was a really awkward conversation to start, but she now has a bit of an idea of what her parent’s plans are, like staying in their house, that eventually they’d want to move to her city, etc. I like to think that we’re a bit too young to start thinking about this, but having a vague idea as a starting point is probably a really good idea.

    • I think it’s much easier to have the conversation when everyone is young and health. That way it doesn’t seem like you are railroading your parents into a certain option.

  13. My boyfriend has a house in the city with a separate apartment for his mother. She broke her hip too and since he has full time staff over there they feed her and take care of her, and when he goes they spend a lot of time together. It is a luxury to be able to afford staff, and definitely a plus in those countries where otherwise the old person would have to go to a retirement home.

    • That is wonderful that she can be at home. I think it is very traumatic to have to go live in a home, especially if it isn’t a really nice one.

  14. You bring up some excellent points here, especially that caregiving is a personal sacrifice, and one that is not for everyone. My wife and I had to serious evaluate our own situation when her mother started showing signs of dementia. Although her time with us was short, we are glad we had made the decision to take her into our home with the help of a caregiving agency. One book that really helped us through the process is by author Johann Christoph Arnold, entitled Rich in Years. This really gave us the courage to initiate conversations with her, and resolve long standing issues, last wishes, and stories that she had not shared prior to living with us.

  15. This is what always frustrated me as an advisor: people telling me, “My kids will take care of me.” How completely rude are you to assume that you’ll wreck your kids life taking care of you? Sure, if they want to take care of you, that’s wonderful, but telling them that they have to take care of you? No thank you. That’s a hard, hard job.

    • I would feel really bad guilting my kid into taking care of me. I want her to have a life. Maybe I’ll just be healthy until I die peacefully in my sleep at a ripe old age!

  16. When my mother made the decision it was time to make arrangements with hospice my brothers and sisters had the very difficult task of caring for her. I was in Austin at the time and really felt guilty about not being able to help. It was a very difficult time for my siblings and can be a stressful burden if you are not prepared emotionally and have the support of your family.

    • Emotionally, I think having to care for an elderly parent is one of the hardest things you can do. I hope I have what it takes if the time ever arises that we need to do that.

  17. Luckily I’ve never had to be a caregiver and I hope I never have to be. If I do, though I definitely would step up the plate. Hopefully my parents get some proper insurance to cover some of the costs of hiring a helper because I’m sure it would get stressful on all of us.

    • It’s a catch-22 between wanting to help and not really being able to do everything, plus feeling guilty if you don’t always want to take on the responsibility. I’m really glad my parents have LTC insurance.

  18. I haven’t been a caregiver yet other than taking care of my husband for a day or two after 3 surgeries over the last 7 years. I suck at it though – I get whiny and overwhelmed too easily. I hope if our parents ever need help that they or we have enough money to have a day nurse too.

  19. My grandfather spent his last few years in an assisted living facility. It was very nice. He had his own private apartment with a living room, bedroom, and small kitchen. He also had access to medical care and assistance when he needed it. For him this was a good solution, but I know that it’s an expensive option. I haven’t given much thought to what I’ll do when my parents need extra help. They’re divorced, live on opposite sides of the country, and I’m an only child. The idea of having both of them live with me is an entertaining idea, but it’s not a practical one. Fortunately, they are both well off and still relatively young (in their 50s), and this is something that we won’t have to worry about for some time yet.

  20. I’ve been working as a caregiver for 5 years. It can be stressful at times but the overall satisfaction of helping someone live a fuller life is priceless. My days are filled with meaning and purpose, which is more than many people can say about their jobs. I wouldn’t mind if the pay was a big higher but I’m not complaining.
    I also like this list I found of the different benefits of being a caregiver at http://blog.neighboringcare.com/benefits-of-being-a-caregiver/

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