As we age, we tend to need a tad more help with everyday tasks. Some of us may even find ourselves needing to be cared for by a family member or close friend. Or maybe you are the family member who is becoming a caregiver for an elderly parent or grandparent. This is a difficult shift in roles and relationship. The parent or grandparent who took care of a child or grandchild for years now needs that child or grandchild to care for him or her. The transition from authority figure to a more subordinate role is sometimes very tough on both the caregiver and the one being cared for. The tips below may be helpful if you are taking on that caregiver role.
- Establish Norms
All of us have shared a household with others – as a parent or child, a roommate, a spouse or significant other – and can recall that there was a time when the parties had to establish the new norms of the home. The same is true when becoming a caregiver. During the initial days or weeks, everyone is on their best behavior. Caretakers are keen to the needs and desires of the loved one. Loved ones are learning the boundaries of the household they are now in, hoping not to disrupt the family atmosphere. Visiting your child is much different from living with your child. It is a good idea during this “honeymoon” period to begin the conversations that will establish the new norms of the combined household.
- Recognize Time Commitments
Be honest about how much time the care of the loved one will impose. Seek help from other family members if it is unfeasible to take it on alone. Hire help if you can. Many caretakers underestimate the extent of the time commitment that will be required to successfully manage another adult’s care. This time commitment will vary depending on the seriousness of the care needed. Questions to ask yourself include: Can I continue to work? Can they be left alone? Do they have the capacity to make an emergency call if needed? Will I need to learn any special medical skills for their care? What would I do to help them if they fall?
- Prepare for the Future
It is important for caretakers to develop a plan of action for the care of their loved one. Is this arrangement permanent? Is it a temporary arrangement between independent living and assisted living or nursing facility? Is the goal for the loved one to manage their own care in order to regain independence? Whether the plan is for the loved one to regain independence or is to be a bridge between independent and formal care, work toward this goal. And both the caregiver and the loved one need to agree on the goal and work toward it. And both need to be realistic. Sometimes the caregiver is hesitant to permit the loved one to become independent again because they aren’t sure the loved one will be able to handle it. And sometimes the loved one doesn’t want to admit that they need the amount of care that warrants having a caregiver. Communication is important.
- Take Time for Yourselves
We all need a little me time now and then. Don’t be afraid to take a night off. This is good for both parties. Alone time often becomes a coveted commodity when caretakers bring loved ones into their homes. The family unit has expanded – the space becomes one person smaller and responsibilities become one person larger. Both parties lose the uninhibited privacy that separate living once provided.
Whether you are looking ahead to needing long-term care yourself or may be the person who will provide that care to a loved one, you may want to attend the upcoming free Avenues for Aging workshop sponsored by the Rick Crawford & Associates, the Estate Planning Center, and MedicareMisty Cares. Call (423) 648.9829 to register for this workshop on Tuesday, April 23.