Going back to college this semester is tough because if you're not only a student but also the family caregiver. Although you have a large task ahead of you, there are great ways to balance back to school with caregiving. Here are a few tips that will benefit your caregiving and classes this semester.
Make a Plan
The reality of the situation is that things are going to be difficult. That doesn't mean all is lost. It just means that careful planning is in order. For caregivers and college students, money and time will be tight. In order to be successful, you must decide in advance what your priorities are and how you'll carry them out. Writing things down might seem unnatural, but it works. Start with what must be done first, then add other things. Be realistic.
Ask for Help
You might come to the conclusion that you need some assistance getting things done. You might have wanted to take of your mom on your own, since she took such great care of you. However, that might not be possible at this time. You don't have to give all of your responsibilities away and abandon what you told your family you'd do. Getting a friend, family member, or outside help, to do light housework, prepare simple meals, or run local errands can do wonders.
Of course, life is full of surprise. Caregivers especially know this. So schedule, but be flexible. Pencil in "Gap Time", or time where nothing specific is planned. If an emergency, you can move scheduled blocks into “Gap Time” or you can use the time to reassess potential “problem points” that have arisen. Most importantly, you can use empty “Gap Time” to take care of yourself- another critical step towards balancing caregiving and school!
Take Online Classes
You don't have to physically go to class! Many colleges and universities offer degrees entirely online. These online degrees from accredited universities are also growing in popularity. All you need is a computer with a web camera, a microphone, and a reliable internet connection You can also take courses at one college and transfer credits later if you are unable to find your preferred degree in an online program. Check with your prospective school to determine how online classes work and to get advice on which classes to take based on your schedule and concerns.
Don’t Overload on Coursework
Don’t allow yourself to be pressured into becoming a full-time student if you don’t want to. Take your classes on your own schedule. Only you know your circumstances and can make decisions for what will work best for you. Trust your gut!
Maintain Your Health
You're probably so focused on taking care of your loved one that you neglect your own needs. However, as a college student and caregiver, you need to take great care of yourself. Not only will healthy eating and moderate exercise get you in better physical shape to carry out your responsibilities, they contribute to mental and emotional well-being.
Look into Caregiver Scholarships
Many caregivers are unaware that scholarships exist for college students who also fulfill a caregiver role. These scholarships can help take care of expenses. Caregiver scholarships are offered by local caregiving organizations as well as individual universities.
Make Time for Yourself
When you are responsible for a loved one's care, it can be hard to remember to also take care of yourself. Just remember that if you get too burned out, your studies will be affected and you won't be able to give much of your energy to your loved one since you won't have any energy left to give. Make it a priority to take a little time for yourself every day to do things that make you feel great, like working out, taking a yoga class on campus, or just hanging out with friends.
Stick to a Budget
By creating a budget, you can ensure that you'll stay on the right track financially, whether you're taking out student loans to help cover your expenses or have some other means of paying for them. Here are some things to remember in your budget:
- Cost of tuition
- Cost of books and other materials
- Gas/transportation money
- Food (groceries and dining out)
- Other monthly expenses
- Fun money (because everyone deserves a night out)
For more tips on how to balance your life as a caregiver, check out our resource on the true cost of caregiving.