When you were a child, people stepped in to take care of you, whether it was changing your diapers or helping you learn how to read. Over time, though, the child often becomes the caregiver, with more than one in six employed Americans reporting that they care for an elderly relative.
Whether it’s a parent, significant other, or other loved one, though, caregiving isn’t as easy as professionals make it look. Before you make the commitment, you should learn as much as possible about what’s involved. Caring for an elderly loved one can be time-consuming and draining, especially if you’re trying to balance it with the demands of raising children or maintaining a full-time job.
You’ll Need the Right Environment
Whether you’re moving your elderly loved one into your home or providing care at your loved one’s home, you’ll need to research what you’ll need. If your loved one has mobility issues, you may need to modify the space to make it easier to get around. You’ll also need a first aid kit, incontinence supplies for men and women, and any specialized items related to your loved one’s care.
Documentation Is Essential
If your loved one requires hospitalized, it’s important that everyone involved recognize you as the person’s caregiver and respect that role. Thanks to the AARP, the medical community has begun to recognize this, with laws in 18 states ensuring that caregivers will be looped in on everything that happens. You should be listed as the emergency contact on all documentation and have copies of any directives, such as living wills, that will affect your loved one’s care.
Help is Available
Although you want to do everything for your loved one, there are plenty of services available to help. Even if it’s having meals delivered or using home care aids, a little help can go a long way. You can also get a boost from virtual caregivers, including in-home sensors for when you can’t be there. There are also helpful services like Care.com that connects you with local caregivers who can check in every now and then for a small fee.
Self-Care Is Important
Between work, obligations with your own spouse or family, and caring for an elderly loved one, stress can easily mount. Over time, this can take a toll on your mental and physical health. You won’t be able to be there for anyone if you aren’t well yourself. Find ways to work in time for you several times a week, even if it’s only a half an hour. You can take advantage of virtual caregivers and in-home aides to free up a little time. You can also outsource some of your own personal tasks, such as house cleaning or grocery shopping, to give yourself more time alone and with your loved one.
Caring for an elderly relative or friend is filled with ongoing challenges. But the more prepared you are to tackle them, the more successful you’ll be. With so many tools now available to help, you don’t have to manage everything on your own, as long as you know where to look.