Caregivers must care (financially) for themselves

If you’re a caregiver, possibly for a loved one dealing with an illness, you’re probably already facing some significant emotional and physical challenges – so you don’t need any financial ones as well. Yet, they are difficult to avoid. What steps can you take to deal with them?

Whatever your relationship to the individuals for whom you’re providing care, you can take some steps to protect your own financial future. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Investigate available workplace and government benefits
    You may have benefits through your employer that provide you with flexibility and/or income in the event you need to take time away to provide for the care of a loved one. The federal Employment Insurance programs provides financial assistance of up to 55% of your earnings, to a maximum of $573 a week. Benefits may be available for you to provide care or support to a critically ill or injured person or someone needing end-of-life care.
  • Evaluate your employment options
    If you have to take time away from work – or even leave employment altogether – to be a caregiver, you will lose not only income but also the opportunity to contribute to your Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) or other employer-sponsored retirement plan. But you may have some options, such as working remotely, or at least working part time. Either arrangement can give you flexibility in juggling your employment with your caregiving responsibilities.
  • Explore payment possibilities for caregiving
    Depending on your circumstances, and those of the loved ones for whom you’re providing care, you might be able to work out an arrangement in which you can get paid something for your services. And as long as you are earning income, you can contribute to an RRSP or invest in through a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) to keep building resources for your own retirement.
  • Protect your financial interests – and those of your loved ones
    You may well want to discuss legal matters with the individual for whom you are a caregiver. It may be beneficial to work with a legal professional to establish a financial power of attorney – a document that names someone to make financial decisions and pay bills when the person no longer can. And whether you or someone else has financial power of attorney, the very existence of this document may help you avoid getting your personal finances entangled with those of the individual for whom you’re caring.
  • Keep making the right financial moves
    As long as you’re successful at keeping your own finances separate from those of your loved one, you may be able to continue making the financial moves that can help you make progress toward your own goals. For example, avoid taking on more debt than you can handle. Also, try to maintain an emergency fund containing three to six months’ worth of living expenses, with the money kept in a liquid account. Of course, these tasks will be much easier if you can maintain some type of employment or get paid for your caregiving services.

There’s nothing easy about being a caregiver. But by making the right moves, you may be able, at the least, to reduce your potential financial burden and brighten your outlook.

This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

Edward Jones, Member Canadian Investor Protection Fund.

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