Seven Ways to Get Your Ducks in a Row Before You Agree to Become a Caregiver for a Loved One
It’s normal for seniors to want to live at home independently for as long as possible. Unfortunately, just because your loved one wants to stay at home and live by themselves doesn’t mean they can take care of themselves like they used to.
That doesn’t necessarily mean your loved one has to move. It just means they may need a little extra help around the house.
If you’re considering being the person who is going to help mom or dad remain in their home as they age, make sure you are prepared for your new role by following these tips.
Consider All of Your Loved One’s Care Options
Before you rush into assuming that you’re going to become a caregiver for your loved one in their home, make sure that you consider all of their care options.
The nursing home is often considered the last stop, especially now that there have been so many outbreaks of coronavirus in nursing homes, but don’t automatically discount it. A nursing home may be the best option if your loved one needs a lot of medical care.
You may also consider an assisted living facility, a 55+ community, or professional in-home care. Even if you don’t pursue any of these options now, doing the research means you’ll be ready if one of these options becomes a better choice in the future.
Make a Plan for What You Will and Won’t Do
If you decide that you’re ready to take on a caregiver role, you should very seriously consider what you’re willing to do—and what you aren’t willing to do. It’s important, to be honest with yourself so you don’t end up taking on too many responsibilities.
Common caregiver duties to consider include:
- Help with personal hygiene and care
- Help with meals and nutrition
- Help with mobility around the house
- House maintenance and housekeeping
- Transportation to appointments and running errands
- Financial management
- Keeping them company
For example, you may decide that you are able to help with personal hygiene and meal preparation, but you may decide that you’re not willing to take care of the yard too. Knowing that can help you hire a landscaper or a neighborhood teen to mow the grass instead of doing it yourself when you don’t have the time or interest.
Determine If Any Other Family Members Will Help
Just because you have decided to take on the caregiver role doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. In fact, it’s a good idea to ask for help, as being the only caregiver can be very overwhelming.
Ask other family members if they would be willing to pitch in so you aren’t doing all the work yourself. They can take over duties for a day, or provide certain types of support throughout the week.
You can also consider asking neighbors if they might be willing to help. Even if they aren’t willing to help your loved one with personal care needs, they may be willing to help by putting out the garbage and putting the cans back up by the garage every week.
Create a Schedule
Once you know what you’re willing to do, and you’ve figured out who else is going to help, it’s time to create a schedule.
Which days will you be stopping by? If you’re going to check in every day, what time will you be there and how long will you stay? Which family members are responsible for which duties and when?
Not only will making a schedule like this help you avoid any confusion when multiple caregivers are involved, but it can also provide your loved one with peace of mind. They will always know who’s coming, when, and what they’re going to do before anyone arrives at the door.
Make a Plan for Adaptations That Need to Be Made to the Home
Unfortunately, your loved one’s home isn’t likely to be safe for them as it is. If they want to remain at home, an important part of your job is to provide adaptations that make their house safer.
The needs of every senior are a little different, but there are some common considerations that include:
- Install grab bars in the bathroom
- Install hallway lighting
- Secure rugs to the floor
- Put non-skid strips on interior and exterior stairs
- Consider installing a monitored alarm system
- Make sure smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are operational
Know How You’re Going to Handle Health Care Needs
Although time consuming, it isn’t necessarily difficult to help your loved one with certain tasks, like getting dressed or preparing lunch. Managing their healthcare needs, on the other hand, can be nerve racking.
It may include going to medical appointments and documenting symptoms, but it also includesmanaging their prescription medications.
It’s important to stay organized. That includes making a list of all the medications your loved one takes, deciding on just one pharmacy to manage all these prescriptions, and using a pill organizer so both you and your loved one know which pills they’re supposed to take and when.
Make a Plan for Your Own Mental Health
Being a caregiver can be very stressful. Depression and anxiety are the norm, which can make life uncomfortable for you, but it also prevents you from showing up for your family.
It’s important to plan how you’re going to care for your loved one very carefully, but you can’t forget about yourself. When you’re making a schedule for your loved one’s care, make sure you also schedule downtime for yourself so you have a chance to rest and recuperate. Whether that means taking a day off or avoiding caregiving duties after a certain time every day, it’s important to take care of yourself too.
Being a caregiver for a loved one is a noble calling, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Make sure you’re prepared for your new role by getting your ducks in a row with the tips on this list.
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