When our parents start to show signs of aging, it can be difficult for them to accept they need our help on a more full-time basis. Even as adults, we look to our parents for strength and self-reliance. When they are unable to provide this in the same capacity as before, a family caregiver often volunteers to help first before the discussion about a permanent facility takes place.
Taking care of an ailing or elderly parent comes with the kind of responsibility that can shake up a person’s normal day-to-day. Depending on the level of care your loved one requires, duties can range from driving him or her to doctor’s appointments and activities to assisting with bathing or getting in and out of bed.
Professional caregivers and medical professionals are trained on how to care for elderly adults who are unable to fully take care of themselves. A family caregiver usually comes in with far less experience of what to expect.
When stepping into the role, a family caregiver should:
Learn about the day-to-day. Is your family member suffering from a chronic illness? Does he or she require medication? What kind of activities do they enjoy? How independently do they currently function? Make a list of questions to learn as much as possible about how to provide the best support for your family member’s needs.
Create a schedule. This will help with expectations for both the caregiver and the rest of the family. If there is a need for rotating or extra coverage for care, it’s best to have this planned out ahead of time. By adhering to a schedule, appointments are less likely to be missed; communication will be more effective; and your loved one can be assured someone will be able to take care of them when needed.
Know your limitations. If your family member is facing a debilitating illness or his or her condition worsens, it’s important to be realistic about how much care you can provide and to what degree. Family members who decide to take over caregiving duties for a parent or elderly friend have previous responsibilities they cannot ignore. The time and energy it takes to balance it all can be overwhelming at times. A family caregiver should be mindful of when to ask for additional help to prevent burnout or prepare for potential next steps to implement professional care either at home or in a long-term residency.
When a loved one needs our help, our familial sense of duty steps in and immediately takes charge. However, it’s essential for a caregiver to remember to take care of themselves as well. While it may not seem there are enough hours in the day to accomplish both, being physically and mentally capable of taking care of another person is crucial.
Family caregivers alter their priorities in order to take care of their loved ones full-time. This lifestyle can take time to adjust to but ultimately, can feel rewarding. For additional support, there are organizations and groups of family caregivers who meet in person or online to share their stories and give advice. Being part of a community that is facing the same struggles or questions you are can prove most helpful in your new role as a family caregiver.