It’s a fact - we are all growing older. Beats the alternative, right? Of course as our loved ones age, we want to do all we can to take care of them, which may include taking on a caregiving role. This desire to help comes from a place of love, but it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Caregiving can be rewarding, and it can also be a stressful and difficult endeavor.
Of the over 40 million unpaid caregivers in America, 90% are family members, and a majority are between the ages of 45 and 64. It’s important to remember it’s not an easy proposition. There are multiple areas of concern, ranging from time constraints to financial concerns.
Here are five tips to help you care for aging loved ones:
Create a Routine
We are all creatures of habit, and a routine provides structure, focus, and a sense of daily purpose. A predictable routine helps a caregiver too as tasks can be accomplished efficiently.
Setting a routine depends on things like medication management and waking/sleeping times. Complicated care needs benefit from a routine that helps the caregiver stay on top of everything without getting overwhelmed or feeling rushed.
An open line of communication will allow you to work through any issues that arise and it's vital that those receiving care have some control over their routine. Discuss their needs and preferences and compromise as needed. Share concerns regarding health, safety, costs, or quality of life and what should be done in case of emergencies. Communicating in advance will provide peace of mind going forward.
It’s critical for caregivers to be realistic about what they can offer — financially and time wise. It’s tempting to promise to do everything, but it’s important to be honest about what you can provide. If you promise to be available to do whatever your loved one needs, resentment will likely build up. If something is too expensive, discuss budget-friendly solutions. If something demands a lot of time, discuss ways to source outside help. Encourage your loved one to be honest about their care needs too.
Make a list of your needs and capabilities and review together to find solutions for your routine. Determine what you can provide and where you will need help. Most importantly, be patient with each other — it’s never easy for anyone to admit to limitations.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask For Help
It can be challenging to care for a loved one and there are many ways to find help. A move to a retirement community takes the pressure off the family caregiver and allows them to enjoy time with their loved one instead. There are also in-house daycare programs that give those receiving care an opportunity to socialize and give the caregiver a break.
Take Time For Yourself
Nobody has the capacity to be a caregiver 24/7. Taking time for yourself is critical, it helps refresh your batteries and offer better care. Those receiving care may appreciate some time away too.
Caregivers don’t need to only be defined by the care they give, and those receiving care should not only be defined by the care they receive. Both parties need to be conscious of their needs, to talk openly about them, give themselves time and space, and be willing to ask for help.
Being a caregiver isn’t just about doing chores, it’s about being there for someone, emotionally as well as physically, and burnout is a real thing. Following these tips can help you support the people you love for the long haul.