There will come a time in your life when you are faced with taking care of a loved one. There are essential boundaries that must be established in order to provide the best care to your loved one and to yourself. Although you may find it difficult to separate your emotions during this time, it’s essential to your health that you find time to give back to yourself.
If you are beginning to see signs of aging in your loved one, it’s crucial to start creating the basic guidelines of your family’s care plan to alleviate the difficulty of decision-making during times of high emotional distress in the future.
Form a Support Team.
Before speaking to your loved one who needs care, create a core support team with family and close friends. Discuss who will be the point of contact for various tasks when the time comes. For example, depending on the level of care, those who live nearby might be good choices for transportation, such as driving to and from doctors’ appointments, pharmacy pickups, or occasional car rides to get your aging loved one out of the house.
There are certainly opportunities for everyone to participate. Family members who live at a distance or who have limited time to spare can help with tasks that don’t require being physically present such as ordering meals online, scheduling housekeeping, and establishing automatic bill payments and e-delivery for monthly expenses. Lotsa Helping Hands is a free and simple calendar that helps caregivers organize and request help for individual tasks.
No matter the size of your role, working as a cohesive team to prioritize the interests of your aging loved one is most important.
Talk to Your Loved One.
Approaching your loved one and asking questions related to how they want to be cared for in the future is the best way to confirm all decisions being made are decided by the one who needs care. Including your support team in the decision-making process will ensure everyone is aware of how decisions will be carried out. It’s important that all individuals on your support team remain patient and open-minded during the decision-making process as your loved one may be apprehensive of having this conversation. If you’re feeling unsure on what questions to ask to get the conversation started, Jemma’s article Starting a Dialogue lends a few ideas.
Write it Down.
Now that you and your support team have started the dialogue, put your loved one’s plan in writing. Working with an attorney to create a written plan ensures your loved one’s wishes are met. Having a plan in writing also prevents potential disagreements amongst family members regarding health care, financial, and legal preferences as your loved one’s decisions have already been clearly determined. If you don’t have an attorney, contact a Jemma Financial Advisor who can connect you with a qualified attorney.
Create a Personal Plan.
On average, 55% of family caregivers have clinically significant symptoms of depression1 and a quarter to half of these caregivers meet the diagnostic criteria for Major Depression Disorder2.
How effective will your caregiving be if you are not taking care of yourself? There are solutions. Create a simple, daily care plan that works for you. Whether it is spending 30 minutes in the morning taking a walk outside, meditating for 15 minutes when you wake up, or taking a 20-minute bike ride after dinner, prioritizing your health matters.
Life as a caregiver is hectic and always changing. No matter how many curveballs the day throws at you, be sure to stick to your care plan – your health, and your loved one, depend on it.
Finances Don’t Have to be Complicated.
Caregiving is physically and mentally demanding so don’t allow balancing someone else’s checkbook to be another stressor. It is always wise to speak with a trusted, unbiased professional regarding family finances. If you have questions regarding establishing monthly budgets, consolidating various accounts, or other financial planning considerations, contact a Jemma Financial Advisor. There is no cost to have a conversation and to have your family’s questions answered.
Use Your Resources.
70% of caregivers say they turn to friends and family members for information, care, or support.3 In fact, 84% of caregivers need more help and information with at least 14 specific topics related to caregiving.4
The top three concerns of caregivers are:
- Keeping their loved one safe
- Managing their own stress
- Making end-of-life decisions
If you are feeling overwhelmed with questions, ask for help. There are various organizations available for people just like you. If your top concern is safety, AARP created a helpful HomeFit Guide to give you simple home modifications to make your home more user-friendly and livable for your aging loved one. Aging Life Care Professionals use a holistic-approach when working with families to design and accomplish a comprehensive care plan. Eldercare’s Locator service puts you in touch with local Adult Day Programs which can alleviate stress for those full-time professionals who are now caring for a loved one. The National Adult Day Services Association (NADSA) created questions to ask when visiting an adult day center. Be sure to look these over before you schedule your first visit.
Taking on the role as a caregiver can be challenging but don’t forget you aren’t alone. More than 65 million people (in the United States) provide care for a chronically ill, disabled, or aged family member or friend during any given year.5 If you are struggling to find support or are looking for additional support, try searching for a local support group using Family Caregiver Alliance’s Family Care Navigator.
Being a caregiver is undeniably a challenge but there are ways to stay happy and healthy while caring for your loved one. Don’t be afraid to give yourself 30 minutes of “me time” once a day to release any tension or stress. Remember, you can’t stop your loved one from aging so creating a plan for yourself is a priority.
1 & 2: Zarit, S. (2006). Assessment of Family Caregivers: A Research Perspective.
3: Pew Research Center. (2013). Family Caregivers are Wired for Health.
5: National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with AARP; November 2009 http://caregiveraction.org/resources/caregiver-statistics