One thing is certain… life comes full circle. Your mom and/or dad cared for you during infancy, childhood, and young adult life. Then the parent-child role changes drastically during the later stages of your loved ones life. According to the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are more than 34 million caregivers providing care to a loved one age 18 or older. Thanks to advances in medicine, technology, and overall increased wellness, older adults are living longer than ever before (the elderly population will increase from 30 to 70 million by 2030). For this reason, caregiving has become an increasingly important subject among families. When someone in your family falls, undergoes surgery, or is dealing with a chronic illness, it may become your responsibility to take care of them. Caregiving is not easy, but the level of burden can be lessened by knowing these helpful tips for family caregivers.
Begin the Conversation Early – Tips for Family Caregivers
Talking to older parents about their future care can be tricky. Most families wait until a crisis hits to address important wishes, plans, legal documents, etc. However, waiting until the crisis happens can result in conflict and unforeseen costs. It is recommended that adult children begin talking to their parents about caregiving when their parents reach the age of 70, even when they are still healthy.
Start the dialogue by referencing a news headline or friend’s story to ease into the conversation naturally. Prompt a casual discussion without asking leading questions. For example, “The news of Barbara Bush’s passing is certainly sad, but she sure lived a full life. I wonder if she was cared for at home during her illness?”
Speaking with your loved ones early allows them to express their wishes and remain in control of the situation. Plus, it allows you to have a plan set in place if they suddenly become ill or injured.
Find and Use Caregiver Support Resources
While it’s a labor of love, caregiving is incredibly taxing on both yourself and your family. As the caregiver for a loved one, make an effort to learn about ways to keep yourself healthy. A group like like Smart Patients in association with the Family Caregiver Alliance is a great place to find online support. Connect with other caregivers online or look for resources in your community:
- Local Support Groups – Join caregiving groups in your neighborhood or church to commiserate with people in your shoes; share stories of success and failure; or, simply have someone to laugh and cry with. Talking with others who are going through similar situations provides valuable insight and reduces feelings of isolation.
- Disease-specific Services – If your loved one has dementia, for example, reach out to local non-profit organizations like Alzheimer’s NC for specialized resources. Organizations such as these offer education, resources, 24-hour helplines, and emergency response for both patient and caregiver.
- Respite Resources – Take time for yourself! Ask a family member to share in the caregiving duties or hire an hourly caregiver. Private-duty caregivers can be hired for as little as 1-2 hours a week. Find relief before your own health is affected — an hour or two to yourself makes a world of difference.
Get Organized and Stay Informed
Adding a caregiver hat to the many hats you already wear can be overwhelming. Whether you are the sole caregiver, have other family members, or hired care, it is important to keep organized to save time, energy, money and undue stress. Making lists and schedules, maintaining files, and having an emergency plan will help you to avoid any unnecessary burden.
Consider creating a “refrigerator list” for quick reference that includes:
- Physician’s names and phone numbers
- List of prescription medications
- Emergency contacts
In a drawer, filing cabinet, or notebook keep more detailed information that can be located in a moment’s notice:
- Power of attorney and advance directives
- Insurance information
- Daily/weekly schedules
- Appointment calendar
- Medical information
- Test results
- Caregiver notes
The more you know about your loved one’s health, the better you will be at caring for them. Do your own research about their condition and their medications. Talk with their doctors to get the information you need. Before each doctor’s appointment, prepare a list of questions. Ask for hard copies of test results to better understand the full extent of your loved one’s health issues. Get to know the physicians, attend appointments, and be an advocate for the patient.
It’s OK to Say No.
Let go of the notion that you must do everything yourself. Remember, it is not selfish to focus on your own needs and desires when you are a family caregiver—itʼs an important part of the job. You must be responsible for your own self-care before being able to care for someone you love. Find comfort in knowing that there are organizations to help. Consider hiring a part-time caregiver to lighten your schedule and brighten your loved one’s day. Use a FREE 7-day pass to find a respite or part-time caregiver through Home Care Assist today!