Let’s say that you have found yourself in the role of caregiver for an ailing parent…. Now what? Below are 10 practical tips to smooth the road ahead.
1 Get consensus as much as possible.
Often it is not just the primary care person who matters in the question of what is best for a parent. Of course, the elder has an important say, but don’t forget siblings and other family members that matter too. You may not agree on everything, but at least work hard to agree on the most important things.
2 Create clear and consistent communication with all stake holders.
Once you know what is important with everyone involved, decide how and how frequently you will touch base. If one person is taking lead on the finances and one person is doing most of the care, how often will you talk about how things are going? Being extremely clear and consistent in communication can save a world of heartache.
3 Know your resources.
Does your loved one have insurance or other resources that you can call on? How are his/her finances? Do they have significant debt or surpluses? Get all this on the table so you know what is possible. Also make sure that EVERY DIME is accounted for in a way that allows for financial transparency for everyone involved.
4 Have a plan B.
People get sick and that could be you. If the primary care person is unable to fulfill his/her part, what will you do? Have connections with a home care agency like HopeBridge, who can step in to fill the gaps and allow you to recover without fear or guilt. You will also have the additional benefit of peace of mind.
5 Look to the future.
So you have a plan in place, Great! Understand that all plans in elder care are temporary. It is helpful to have a “if this happens, then we will…” plan in mind. Change hurts the most when it hits you blind-sided.
6 Keep track of the details.
In elder care it’s all about the details. It can truly save you loved one’s life. At a bare minimum make sure they have a current list of medications that they carry with them at all times out of the house.
7 Enjoy the moments.
Taking on care for a person can be overwhelming and actually, it is harder when they are a family member. You may not be able to give them the perfect situations but remember to enjoy the good moments together. After all, life’s richness is found mostly in the moment.
8 Make space for yourself and don’t get lost.
Family caregivers can lose themselves in the process of care. They let go of hobbies and things that bring value to their everyday life just to squeeze a little more care into every day. Some care staff become psychologically “enmeshed,” that is to say they don’t have a clear sense where the person they care for ends and where they begin. The problem is that does not make for good care, it makes confused care.
9 Take breaks.
Remember, being a caregiver is a marathon and not a sprint. As an old marathon mantra says: “walk at every water table.” If you are going to be in for the long haul, pace yourself. Arrange to have a weekend away on a regular basis. This allows your plan B (See tip 4) to be familiar and able to pick up care if needed, as well as allows you to come back fresh and ready.
10 Keep your supportive relationships healthy.
As people dive into care, we often forget those who support us. Make time for your supportive relationships. Those friends and family need your connection and time as well. That may mean that you must NOT do things that are less important in order to prioritize tending to your vital relationships. Remember that being too busy to take care of your primary relationships is the relational equivalent of being too hungry to eat.
If you find yourself taking on the care of another, I personally wish you the best and hope that you can train your eye to see the good and wonderful in the daily pressures of care.