Care for the Caregiver

How can caregivers best take care of themselves when their primary task is to take care of others?

"Your needs might seem secondary, but if you don't take care of yourself properly, you won't be able to effectively care for a loved one," says David Stark, MD, Chief Medical Officer and Head of HR Data, Analytics and Technology Strategy for Morgan Stanley.

This is especially true for women, who account for 61% of all caregivers.1 Women in the sandwich generation, taking care of both their parents and children, have an added challenge because they are often simultaneously caring for the old and the young. According to Pew Research,2 about half of adults in their 40s have both a parent who is 65 or older and a young child (or a grown child who needs support). Plus, the midlife years are a time when many women are trying to push ahead in their careers, with an eye toward saving for retirement; they may also be trying to fund a child's college education.

In short, these years can require women to wear many hats, and while there is no easy formula for combatting caregiving fatigue, we have identified several steps that caregivers can take to safeguard their emotional, physical and financial health.

Share the load

If you are the head caregiver, get the whole family involved in the care. "I suggest to clients that they start by calling a family meeting, especially in the case of an aging parent. Use the meeting to get everything out on the table. Ask family members what they think should be done, and make sure they understand everything that you are currently doing," says Rocco Procopio, Head of Field Compliance at Morgan Stanley.

Prioritize what you most need help with and designate or outsource other tasks to free up time and mental energy. "Even if other family members can't help with daily caregiving tasks, they may be able to relieve other burdens, like paying bills, helping with tech issues so older family members can stay connected and researching local resources," Wendy Cohen, Head of Reserved Living & Giving, says.

Programs like Eversafe, a technology service that helps families monitor their senior loved-one's financial health from Morgan Stanley Reserved Living & Giving, can also offer peace of mind. You might also consider hiring a geriatric care manager. A geriatric care manager is trained in social work, nursing, psychology or gerontology and can identify helpful resources and offer counsel about what your family could most benefit from.

See what your community offers. There are more resources than you think, Cohen says: "Services like meal preparation and delivery, transportation to and from the doctor, and respite care are often not heavily publicized. The local senior center can be helpful as well."

Seek counseling or other mental health supports. Research has found that women who are caregivers report higher levels of stress than male caregivers.3 Recognize that you are in a potentially vulnerable group when it comes to mental health. If you are feeling anxious or depressed, start by talking to your primary care doctor, who can recommend interventions such as therapy or types of exercise to try. Don't ignore rising feelings of panic, sadness or anger.

Don't skip your own doctor's appointments. "You'll be a better caregiver if you rigorously attend to your own health," Dr. Stark says. Get your flu shot, see your doctor at least once a year, get all of your screenings for diseases like diabetes or breast and colon cancer. "Make your own wellness a priority," he says.

Schedule downtime. What do you enjoy doing? What makes you breathe more deeply and feel less stressed? Whatever those things are—reading, going to the movies, having a weekly lunch date with friends—carve out time to fill your cup. And banish any guilt you might feel around taking time for yourself.

Get regular exercise. "I tell people to aim for 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. But even 10 minutes a day can help improve both your health and your mood," Dr. Stark says. Taking regular walks outside, or inside on a treadmill, is one of the easiest ways to incorporate physical activity. Exercise classes such as yoga and tai chi are also great for stress relief and building core strength. Cohen recommends Technogym, which offers discounted rates to Reserved clients.

Why caregivers need a solid financial plan

About 45% of caregivers experience a financial impact as a result of caregiving.4 To help safeguard your financial health, you need a financial plan—which you then need to follow.

Prioritize saving and investing. Consider this: According to the AARP,5 approximately half of family caregivers have used their own money to cover caregiving-related expenses. On average, they cover $7,000 in out-of-pocket costs, mostly by reducing their retirement contributions or dipping into savings or investment accounts. To avoid falling behind, make it a priority to keep contributing to your savings and retirement accounts, and to maximize your 401(k) contribution. A report from the Federal Reserve found that just 33% of college-educated women feel comfortable making investment decisions, compared to 64% of men.6 "It's so important for women to speak up and take ownership of their money and their financial future," says Cohen. This can mean doing independent research and/or working with a Financial Advisor.

Take advantage of all tax deductions and credits. If you have a high-deductible health insurance plan, you likely qualify for a health savings account (HSA) and the many tax benefits that go with this type of account. Not only are contributions tax deductible, you can also make tax-free withdrawals for qualified medical expenses and accumulate tax-deferred interest. Your Financial Advisor can also walk you through which types of IRAs will offer the most tax benefit for you, as well as other caregiving tax credits you may be eligible for.

Seek out sound resources. Morgan Stanley is here to help. For eye-opening statistics, helpful tips and a step-by-step guide for maintaining financial health while being a caregiver, we've created a valuable resource called Playbook: A Woman's Guide to Life and Money.


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  1. The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, “2020 Report: Caregiving in the U.S.,” May 2020

  2. Pew Research Center, “More than Half of Americans in their 40s are ‘Sandwiched’ Between an Aging Parent and Their Own Children,” April 8, 2022

  3. The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, “2020 Report: Caregiving in the U.S.,” May 2020

  4. The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, “2020 Report: Caregiving in the U.S.,” May 2020

  5. AARP, “2021 Caregiving Out-of-Pocket Costs Study,” June 2021

  6. Federal Reserve, “Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households (SHED),” June 2, 2022


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