Are you a caregiver for a loved one? It is likely that you became a Caregiver for your parents or relative before you, or they, even realized it. Dad, who was driving to meet you for dinner at a restaurant that he goes to regularly, was late because he took a wrong turn and got lost. Mom, who always sends a handwritten Birthday card, forgot this year. You talk to your parents a few times a week if not more and they tell the same stories over and over, or they forget they talked to you at all. They have stopped driving at night and in the rain because it is too difficult for them to see. Or maybe, one of your parents had a very big life changing event such as a significant other leaving or passing away, or they have been diagnosed with a terminal illness that has changed everything.
Before you know it, you are spending most of your extra time checking in, driving to medical appointments, filling prescriptions and making meals. Taking care of an older loved one is not easy, especially with the extra demands it puts on most people’s already busy schedules. It changes your routines and family dynamic, takes up extra time, and can be very emotional. Here are some suggestions as to what you can do to prepare yourself and your loved ones in the event that they may need a Caregiver.
TALK ABOUT IT. This first suggestion may seem like an obvious one, but it needs to be said because it is often that this conversation does not happen until after a life changing event has occurred. This conversation, ideally, should take place while everyone is still happy and healthy so that there can be a clear understanding of what is expected or needed and a plan can be put in place. It is not an easy or pleasant conversation to start because nobody wants to talk about it. It can be difficult for the kids or future caregiver to accept the fact that their loved ones are aging or may need to depend on others to care for them. Your parents have probably already considered this but they do not want to scare anyone by bringing it up.
This can be a difficult topic to approach so it is best to do it gently and while all siblings or people who will be assisting with care, are present. Maybe you saw an ad in the paper for a local organization that offers home care services. Ask your Mom if the time every comes that she may need help what she would like her plan to be. Or you heard a conversation on the radio about visiting nurses in the area. Ask your parents what they would like to happen in terms of care if something drastic were to happen to them such as taking a fall or becoming ill and needing regular medical attention.
MAKE IT ABOUT YOU. When the time comes that your loved one needs to start giving up some of their independence, make it about you instead of them. It will not be easy for them to give up their car keys, realize they are not capable of balancing a checkbook or managing finances even though they have done so most of their life, or should not be living alone. Instead of pointing out that they have regularly been forgetting to pay their bills or that they are not driving safely, point out your concerns. An example of this would be “I am worried that one of these days you will get into an accident that could hurt you or someone else”. If you take them out of it and make it about your concerns, it can help give them a new perspective. Expect some push back from your loved ones when these conversations come up and be patient and understanding with them. It is very important to stay calm and try to keep your frustration to yourself when this push back occurs because it is difficult for people to accept the fact that they are not able to do the things they have done their whole life.
LIVING ARRANGEMENTS. You need to recognize that living with you may not be the right solution. Maybe you live far away from your parents and they do not want to move from the neighborhood that has been their home for 50 years. Maybe your house has a lot of stairs that your loved one will not be able to navigate or you do not have a spare bedroom for them. Or maybe they just do not want to live with you – or you do not want them to live with you either, and that is okay too.
Thankfully, there are plenty of other options out there. If your parents only need help with certain daily tasks such as cooking, cleaning, bathing, dressing, or other activities you can contact your local Area Agency on Aging.
GO TO THE DOCTOR WITH YOUR PARENTS OR LOVED ONE. In order for everyone involved to have the best understanding of what is going on with your loved ones health, it is best for someone to go with them, especially once any health concerns arise. This will allow you to get all of the details on the tests, medications, and diagnosis that your loved one has. It also allows for you to ask the Doctor pertinent questions, get more information, and take notes so you and your loved one can have a better understanding of the status of their health. This will also help you recognize if your loved one needs to see a new doctor or specialist to get the best care possible depending on what health concerns they have. Building a relationship with your loved ones Doctor will also help if there is ever a medical emergency because they will know who you are, your relation to their patient, and whether or not they can release information to you.
MEDICAL CARE. Your loved one could potentially need short or long term medical attention in addition to help with their home care. For some, that may mean going to a nursing home or senior living facility depending on the circumstances, for others that may mean having medical attention provided at home. There are plenty of great options out there to choose from, but it is likely that your loved one will prefer to stay in their home while getting the medical attention they need.
Most health insurances cover at home medical care, including Medicare. If this is something your loved one needs you will need to get the necessary information about what your loved ones healthcare plan covers. It will be best to consult your loved ones doctor or the area Agency of Aging to discuss what local organizations are around you that provide this type of care.
ASK FOR HELP. It is normal to feel burned out because it is very time consuming, and can be emotionally and physically draining to take on the role of Caregiver. The stress of taking on that task can become very overwhelming when you add it to your already long list of career and family obligations. You need to not be afraid to ask for help. Are you married with kids? Ask your spouse to help make meals or help your loved one take their medications. Ask your kids to help pick up around the house more regularly or spend time with their loved one. This will not only help you out but it can bring generations closer together. Do you have siblings? Ask them to pitch in as well. Maybe they cannot pitch in as much time but they are willing to contribute financially. Discuss with them the possibility of hiring a caregiver to come in and help with bathing, dressing, cooking, or any other daily tasks.
Your health is also important so you need to take care of yourself. Asking for help or hiring help will not make you a failure and you should not feel guilty for it. The odds are, your loved ones will feel the same way and will be happy to see you take a break and devote some time to yourself. As one of our non-medical care services, we offer Respite Care to our clients and their family members.
Caring for a loved can be very difficult to balance, but it can also be very rewarding. It gives you an opportunity to spend more time with your loved one. It is a great opportunity to spend quality time together and to learn more about them or your family history. There are a lot of great resources to assist with medical and non-medical home care that are very beneficial to use so that everyone can be happy and get the care they need.
We offer visiting nurse services as well as non-medical home care. Our visiting nurse organizations serve the Berks County and Pottstown area and provides service for Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Home Health Aide, Social Services, Speech Therapy, Wound Ostomy & Continence, Surgical Outpatient, Psychiatric & Mental Health, High Tech Infusion & IV Therapy, In-Home Technology, Hospice & Palliative Care & Medication Management. Most of these services are covered by health insurance, especially Medicare.
Advantage Home Care is non-medical and provides complete personal care, companionship, homemaker support and transportation services for our clients. We also offer clients and their family members support with special services such as respite care. It is important to note that Medicare and most health insurance will not cover non-medical services. Advantage Home Care accepts Long Term Insurance, VA Benefits and PDA waivers for homecare.