Family & Friends

11 Tips to Help Ease Your Caretaker Role

Try these ideas to make life easier.

  1. Plan ahead.

    Caregiving can be a stressful, unpredictable and circuitous journey. Most people are ill-prepared for the emotional, physical and financial toll it can take. Those that plan ahead, learn about the different levels of care and payer options such as Medicaid, Medicare, long term care insurance and Veteran’s benefits, often have better outcomes and less conflict around decision making.

  2. Communicate early and often.

    Trying to make decisions in the midst of a crisis is far from optimal. The best time to discuss long term care needs is when things are calm, before your loved ones actually need help. Would your Mom consider a caregiver to help with transportation, errands, or personal care if the need arises? What are her concerns and fears? Does your father feel strongly about staying in his community or would he rather move closer to you as his needs change? And broach the sensitive topic of money ahead of time. Unless you know what financial resources are available to pay for care, you won’t be able to move forward with a plan.

  3. Be realistic.

    Take a moment to assess all you have on your plate. Children, parents, spouse, work, friends, and pets may be just some of your obligations. Doing an inventory of your responsibilities can help you gain a deeper appreciation for all you do…and hopefully deeper compassion for yourself. Caregiving is a marathon, not a sprint, and most people need to prepare themselves for a long journey.

  4. Get help.

    Are there others in your life who can pitch in? Siblings, extended relatives, your children, professional caregivers? Involving children in caregiving responsibilities can set a wonderful example. Hiring outside help just a few hours a week may be worth it. Consider a babysitter, adult caregiver, or a family friend to help out.

  5. Seek expertise and knowledge.

    So often, people lament how much they wished they had more knowledge at the beginning of the caregiving journey. Many say they would do things differently. Seek out the help of a geriatric care manager, elder law attorney or social worker to help guide you. Care.com has a team of experienced senior care advisors who can provide expert guidance and information about providers and resources nationwide.

  6. Check out your benefits.

    If you are in the workplace, find out if your organization has benefits to support caregiving employees. If caregiving impacts your ability to focus on your job or you need accommodations in your schedule, discuss your situation with your immediate supervisor.

  7. Put yourself into the caregiving equation.

    What will help you recharge? Do you need an evening just for yourself each week? Or perhaps an afternoon for yoga class each weekend. Figure out how you make this happen to insure your stress level doesn’t get out of control.

  8. Put yourself into the caregiving equation.

    What will help you recharge? Do you need an evening just for yourself each week? Or perhaps an afternoon for yoga class each weekend. Figure out how you make this happen to insure your stress level doesn’t get out of control.

  9. Join a support group.

    There are numerous in-person groups and online forums that provide opportunities for people in the Sandwich Generation to vent and find support. Interacting with others who are in your situation can be incredibly impactful.

  10. Take care of your health.

    Caregivers are at greater risk of depression and chronic illness than non-caregivers. Many sacrifice preventative care because they are too busy caring for others. Schedule annual physicals and don’t cancel preventive screenings because you don’t have time.

  11. Don’t expect perfection.

    Sometimes good enough is enough. You may not be doing everything as perfectly as you’d like, but you’re doing the best you can. This goes for professional caregivers as well. Don’t expect an in-home caregiver to do everything the same way you or your parent would. The most important thing is that a caregiver is respectful, engaged and caring and has a good rapport with your loved one. If the laundry isn’t folded exactly the way mom likes it, you may need to let it go-and teach your mother to as well.

  12. Think through decisions that have a big impact on you and your family.

    Have you considered moving a parent in with you? Or perhaps thought about moving closer to mom or dad? Take the time to think about how a big change in your family’s routine will impact everyone. Get input from your spouse/partner and children and consider how these changes will affect your lives. This will help you anticipate “bumps in the road” that are a normal part of the caregiving journey.

    By Jody Gastfriend

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