As parents age, sometimes they need extra help. Adult children are often the first to take on this responsibility. This might mean providing assistance with activities of daily living. It could also involve coordinating care providers and making healthcare and financial decisions on a loved one’s behalf.
The choice to act as your parents’ primary caregiver is important, but it is not one to take lightly. The job comes with many responsibilities and rewards. Before saying yes, there are some important questions to consider. Honestly answering them will help you to walk into the role better prepared and avoid the stress, frustration and resentment that can sometimes plague family caregivers.
Am I financially prepared for the extra cost of caregiving?
Out of pocket expenses are often higher than expected for family caregivers. Many pay for things like gas, food, doctor’s co-payments, medications and in home care or in home health services. If your parent moves in with you, there also might be costs associated with remodeling your home. It may be necessary to retrofit it for wheelchair access and safety specifications. There are also lost wages to consider. Family caregivers regularly take time off of work or cut to part time hours in order to meet the needs of an aging loved one.
While it is not easy to overcome the financial struggles of caregiving, having an honest conversation with family helps. Gain a good understanding of how your parents can contribute. This might be through their own savings, by selling a home or with the help of insurance policies. Include other family members in this conversation to see if they might be able to contribute monetarily. It is also a good idea to get financial power of attorney paperwork in order so you can easily access funds in an emergency or should your parent become incapacitated.
Am I physically capable of caring for mom or dad?
Caring for an aging loved one is sometimes a very physical task. This is especially true if your parent needs regular assistance with bathing and getting dressed, housekeeping or even mobility. Completing these tasks on your own can be challenging. Heavy lifting, constant bending or other such activities might put a strain on your own body causing declines. There are always health and safety considerations for both you and your aging loved one to consider before taking on these tasks.
Prepare for the physical tasks associated with caregiving by talking to a professional physical or occupational therapist. Learn proper lifting techniques to protect your shoulders, neck and back. Also discuss adding proper equipment to the home. This can make many tasks easier to assist with and allow the person you are caring for to perform some independently. Finally, take the time to assess your own physical health. If these tasks really are more than you can manage, invest in home care services. Agencies like Salus Homecare Los Angeles offer both full-time and part-time care to meet the exact needs of seniors and families.
Will I accept support?
The number one thing that many family caregivers are guilty of is neglecting their own needs. This not only exacts a mental and physical toll on the caregiver, but it makes providing care for an aging loved one both difficult and risky. Honestly assess if you are willing to reach out for help and support when necessary, and gain a clear understanding of the people who are willing and able to provide it.
Start by assessing your loved one’s needs. Next, take the time to explore community and family resources that might help meet them. Reach out to them, and set up a schedule for receiving regular support. This might include making plans to attend support group meetings, asking a family member to assist with meal preparation or transportation or scheduling professional respite care on a daily or weekly basis. In addition, avoid over scheduling yourself. Commit to using any time away for your own needs instead of always trying to meet the requests and demands of others.
Caring for an aging loved involves making many changes and sacrifices in your own life. Make sure you are prepared for them by honestly asking the above questions. Discuss challenges with the care recipient and other family members, and never forget to ask for help. Above all, remember that while your new role is an important one, you are only capable of doing so much on your own.
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