Although caring for an older relative or friend can be one of the most gratifying experiences you’ll ever have, it can also be one of the most physically and emotionally demanding. Ensuring that everything goes well while navigating through previously uncharted waters in the transition into an informal caregiver requires the ability to understand the challenges ahead and how to plan accordingly. What follows are some essential tips to remember when you suddenly find yourself thrust into the role of caring for an aging loved one.
A good first step in the transition into becoming a caregiver can be learning all you can about your loved one’s illness, condition, or disease by talking to their health care providers. What are their anticipated, specific care needs both in the short- and long-term? Get all the information you can from books, pamphlets, and the internet. Are there any specific skills you may need to learn, like how to transport someone with limited mobility safely?
Use a Team Approach
Write down all the specific activities of daily living (ADLs) needs that your loved one has, like bathing, transportation, meals, etc. Once you have your list, discuss ways to meet those needs with the care recipient, family members, friends, and healthcare providers.
It is also essential to be realistic about what you can and cannot do. Using a team approach, don’t be afraid to enlist the help of others based on their time and talents – as a failure to do so could result in caregiver burnout.
Take Advantage of Community Resources
Most communities offer services that support care recipients and their families. Start by contacting your local Area Agency on Aging. Look into other resources like adult day programs, meal delivery services, paratransit services, and professional home care. You can also contact organizations specific to your loved one’s disease or health condition, for example, the Alzheimer’s Association.
Start with Immediate Needs
Depending on the immediate needs of your loved one, start recording in a log or journal their eating patterns, medications, and physical signs. While respecting their wishes, adapt the home environment for special needs like a walker, wheelchair, etc.
If other informal caregivers are involved, make a caregiving calendar based on each one’s skills and availability. As the primary caregiver, you’ll also need to have an emergency plan in place if something happens to you.
Compile Essential Information
Organize your loved one’s financial information, like bills, loans, bank accounts, and insurance policies. Photocopy important documents like their social security card, driver’s license, and insurance cards. Write down their doctors’ names, addresses, and phone numbers, along with the medical names of illnesses, medical insurance information, prescription numbers, names, and doses.
Educate yourself on the long-term prognosis of your loved one. For example, if your care recipient has a terminal disease, they may need hospice care in the future. Assess their finances and speak to a financial advisor familiar with long-term care issues.
Talk to a lawyer about health care proxy, durable power of attorney, and related topics. If you can afford it, work with a geriatric care manager to help organize and facilitate family meetings and define clear expectations.
Most importantly, maintaining your loved one’s quality of life relies on your ability to stay recharged and refreshed. Be sure to take care of yourself by:
- Openly sharing your experiences and feelings with family and friends
- Checking into your employer’s caregiver assistance program, if applicable
- Eating right, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep
- Joining a caregiver support group
- Continuing to do at least one hobby that brings you pleasure
- Taking regular breaks, or “respites,” from caregiving
Quality In-Home Respite Care for Seniors
We know that the transition into being a caregiver can be challenging, so when you or your loved one need assistance, contact us. We are a fully licensed and insured home care provider with highly trained professionals who are experts at delivering the nurturing that your loved one deserves. While serving as an extended family in your senior’s home, our compassionate caregivers can perform duties like light housekeeping, personal care, dementia care, respite care, companionship care, medication reminders, and even live-in and 24-hour care.
Our agency’s focus is maintaining your loved one’s quality of life, along with their dignity, self-esteem, and independence. For your added convenience, all our in-home services can be individually personalized into an affordable package when and where you need them! Please visit us online now to learn more about us or schedule a FREE initial consultation for a senior in our service area.