Being a family caregiver generally starts with two conflicting realities: you are glad to help because you love your loved one, but there is frequently little time to prepare for the situation. Put another way, while most adult children are happy to take care of their aging parents, they are rarely prepared for the occasion when it arises.
Following a significant medical procedure or event, caregiving obligations may appear out of the blue. Alternatively, it might be the realization that your loved one is gradually losing their health and that you need to take action to protect and take care of them.
Here are some measures you may take to get ready to become a family caregiver whenever that time comes.
1. Remember Why
Being a family caregiver is a challenging yet gratifying job. It is beneficial to begin your new dedication with an upfront reminder of why you are doing this in the first place. Whether your connection with your aging parent or parents is complicated or you are close to them, having a clear understanding of “the why” will help you approach the work with generosity and stay focused even on the most difficult days.
Numerous factors motivate a family caregiver to assume the role, such as:
- An opportunity to give back. Giving care is a chance for us to repay our parents or other parental figures for all that they have done for us. While many people have troubled relationships with their family members, a common need might provide an opportunity for healing.
- Spend meaningful time with your loved one. Regardless of how long or short your time as a caregiver is, every day is an opportunity to spend time with your loved one. Unexpected moments of vulnerability, understanding, and humor that may not have occurred in earlier phases of your relationship will arise from this endeavor.
- Accepting care can be a challenging change for your elderly parent or loved one. Your determination to keep care in the family can be a reassuring and welcome next step in the aging process.
2. Understand Your Responsibilities
A family caregiver has many responsibilities to balance. While every circumstance is different, it is critical to assess your loved one’s health, living arrangements, and daily needs, which should include:
- Administering medication
- Monitoring crucial statistics
- Transportation to and from medical appointments
- Housekeeping or yard work
- Make safety adjustments throughout the home.
- Support with cleanliness and personal care
- Surveilling and managing finances
- Communicating with loved ones and friends
- Coordination with professional care
3. Assess Your Caregiving Capacity
Caring for family members puts additional emotional and physical strain on the caregiver. Although rewarding, this effort is taxing, and caregivers sometimes underestimate their own needs. It may soon result in burnout and a reduced ability to provide care. Now is the moment to start preparing measures to protect your own physical and mental well-being:
- Assess your fitness. Determine whether you can consistently complete the activities without hurting yourself by taking stock of the physical demands imposed by your loved one’s condition. Consult your and your loved one’s physician regarding the procedures and measures required to provide safe care for them. Ask someone close to you and your loved one, or look for professional options if you feel that you cannot physically fulfill the duties of being a family caregiver.
- Make a commitment to self-care. Include nutritious meals, frequent exercise, and meditation in your caregiving routine. Plan to attend therapy or support group sessions, doctor’s appointments, and religious ceremonies.
- Create a care circle. Even if you are the primary caregiver, a team is required to minimize burnout and offer long-term care for your loved one. It’s also vital to consider the experts participating in your loved one’s care, such as physicians, visiting caretakers, and any specialists. A strong and coherent care circle is a crucial support structure that can significantly improve your experience as a family caregiver.
4. Talk to Your Family
As the primary caregiver, you may bear the majority of the daily responsibilities, but this does not imply that you must do everything on your own. Your family can help with the process in a variety of ways.
- Involve close family members. Close family members, such as siblings, cousins, nieces, and nephews, may be able to offer practical aid. It could be anything from sitting with a loved one while you work or take care of personal needs to providing assistance with chores.
- Engage family members in health monitoring. With the use of technology, including secure and smart medical devices, other family members can assist in the monitoring of long-term medical disorders or keep tabs on their loved one’s condition from anywhere.
- Evaluate the home safety. Things that were formerly safe can suddenly become hazards in the house as individuals age. For instance, bathtubs might present a trip risk. Counter edges may present a higher risk. It could become challenging to climb stairs. Make sure that all possible risks are either eliminated or otherwise dealt with by you and your family after comprehensively inspecting the home.
5. Talk to Your Employer
About one in four family caregivers in the US works while providing care for their loved one, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance . Seventy percent of those employees say they have problems because of their dual role. If this describes you, you must take action to lessen the particular stressors connected to providing care while working:
- Talk to your manager. Let them know you are responsible for providing family care, and be clear about what that will entail.
- Ask for what you require. Do not hesitate to ask for a laptop, change your work schedule, or swap your tasks with your colleagues in exchange for something beneficial.
- Maintain communication. While you are not obligated to provide your manager with personal information regarding your loved one’s health, you should communicate regularly enough to ensure that your requirements and your boss’s expectations are met. Good communication relieves stress and allows you to stay present.
6. Hire Help as Required
Despite your best efforts, you cannot be available at all times. Your loved one may also demand support that you are unable to supply. Outside assistance can provide a variety of services, including:
- Nurse visits to home
- Cleaning services
- Temporary caregiving, such as adult day care or respite care
- Meal delivery
- Transportation to and from doctor’s visits
7. Keep Reliable Records
Simple yet crucial, you must devise a strategy for keeping accurate records on behalf of your loved one. It includes the following:
- Bank Records: It is critical to keep track of your loved one’s finances to keep their care within budget and to protect them from elder scams.
- Legal Documents: Find and keep essential paperwork such as their Social Security card, birth certificate, will, care directive, and tax records. Consider storing documents in a lockable, fire-proof document safe.
- Medication Schedules: Consult with their primary care physician and record drug details. To avoid confusion, use a pill organizer.
- Vital Statistic Measurements: If part of your care regimen includes monitoring a chronic health condition, you must keep accurate measurement records to communicate with healthcare specialists.
Donate Today to Support Caregivers!
Caregiving is a demanding task that often leaves the caregivers physically, emotionally, and financially unstable. The least we can do is to try to alleviate some of their burden by supporting them via donations.
November is National Family Caregivers Month! Let’s honor the dedication and sacrifices of the family caregivers who devote their lives and resources to caring for their loved ones! Don’t forget to support them, which you can do by acknowledging their hard work and donating as much as possible: https://www.alzra.org/donate-now/.
- Caregiver Statistics: Work and Caregiving. Family Caregiver Alliance. https://www.caregiver.org/resource/caregiver-statistics-work-and-caregiving/. Accessed: 6th Nov, 2023.
- 10 Steps to Prepare to Become a Family Caregiver. Connected Caregiving. https://myconnectedcaregiver.com/resources/10-steps-to-prepare-to-become-a-family-caregiver-2/. Published Online: 9th Sep, 2022. Accessed: 6th Nov, 2023.