Family caregivers take on an important role of helping a loved one who is managing illness, an injury, or treatment after surgery. They may care for a loved one for a short amount of time during recovery or may be committed to assisting them indefinitely. The loved one may need additional help around the home, or may need more assistance with activities of daily living such as bathing and dressing. Every person will have different needs, and needs may change over time as a person ages or as chronic health conditions progress. There are many ways to provide care, and there’s not one right way to be a family caregiver.
When considering taking on the role of family caregiver, you will likely have a lot of questions. It’s also normal to feel a variety of emotions about what being a family caregiver means for you. It’s helpful to remember that you aren’t alone and that there are resources available to help you. The following tips may assist you as you begin your new role as a caregiver:
Have an Open Conversation
It’s important to talk about the person’s wishes early on to understand what they want. Talking with your loved one about their preferences for care, insurance, finances, and other wishes will help you develop a plan. If you wait until after an injury or surgery, the decision making process will be more difficult and more stressful for everyone. Early discussions can help make the process a little smoother and give everyone time to prepare. It may feel uncomfortable to initiate these conversations, so look for opportunities to start the discussion such as following a doctor’s visit or after a parent has expressed concerns about doing things at home.
Build a Support Team
Family caregiving can feel like a solitary responsibility at times, so it’s beneficial to find a support network to help you. You don’t have to do this alone! Surround yourself with a trusted team of people who are available to perform specific tasks or to give you a break from caregiving for a bit. Ask your loved one whom he or she would like to involve as well. Think about your family, friends, and community connections who may be available to assist you. Family and friends who aren’t close enough to help in person can still offer their support remotely through tasks such as managing finances, ordering supplies, scheduling appointments, organizing meals, and paying bills.
Get Organized, and Create a Plan
Once you have a team in place, you can work together with your loved one to create a plan. Consider how much time each person can contribute and who is available to help with specific tasks. To avoid duplication of effort, it’s helpful to list out what needs to be done and who will be responsible for each task. Look to your team if you need to delegate a task to someone else. When a care plan is worked out, it’s easier for everyone to follow and to respond if something unanticipated occurs.
- Communicate – Clear communication will help keep your care team on track. Writing down the schedule and list of assigned responsibilities can help alleviate questions and avoid confusion. Work with your team to determine the best way for everyone to stay in touch or to communicate changes to the plan. Phone calls, emails, video chat, and online scheduling apps are different ways people can stay connected.
- Build a backup plan – It is also valuable to develop a plan for backup care. If you are sick or injured, or if there’s something you are uncomfortable handling, is there another person who can step in? Another option is to hire a professional caregiver to provide assistance and to give you some respite from care.
- Organize information – Family caregivers deal with a lot of detailed information—from appointments, prescriptions, and medication schedules to health insurance and medical records. Develop an organizational system to help you keep track of everything. Binders, files, and calendars can help with scheduling and storing important phone numbers, test results, and policy information. There are even smartphone apps designed to help caregivers track and access information easily.
- Improve home safety – The person you’re caring for may have some difficulty moving around, so it’s important to make sure the space is safe. Removing loose rugs, cords, and clutter from walkways can help reduce tripping hazards. Will your loved one need any additional safety measures implemented such as handrails, shower seats, or better lighting to be able to remain safe while in the comfort of home?
Care For a Loved One
You’ve generously decided to help the person you love with their care needs. One of the best ways to feel more comfortable with your new role is to make sure you fully understand the loved one’s health conditions and what will be expected of you as a caregiver. Inform doctors that you are the person’s primary caregiver, and make sure you understand any instructions you are expected to follow at home. The more you understand any diagnoses or treatments, the more prepared you’ll be to help your loved one and to respond if an emergency arises.
Take Care of Yourself
When taking care of a loved one, it’s easy to forget about your own needs. Family caregiving can be stressful and overwhelming at times, so it’s important to take care of yourself too.
- Practice self-care – Exercise, sleep, healthy eating, and doing things you enjoy are still essential even while you’re caring for a loved one. If it feels like there isn’t enough time in the day, schedule time for yourself. Practicing self-care regularly helps you to be a calmer and more present caregiver.
- Consider financial implications – Think about how your budget may change as a result of caregiving. Will your new role require you to take time off from work, change your schedule, or to leave your job altogether? Are you eligible for time off covered under the Family Medical Leave Act? Can you possibly become a paid family caregiver? Also consider other costs of caregiving such as buying supplies and groceries for your loved one.
- Take breaks – Remember to do things you enjoy to give you a break from your caregiving responsibilities. Plan outings with friends, enjoy your favorite hobbies, practice yoga or meditation, or find something new to try. Activities can be relaxing or invigorating, depending on your needs. This is a great time to call in your support team so you can step away from caregiving for a bit. If you find that you’re needing more time away, or your team isn’t available, consider respite care provided by a professional caregiver as an option.
Deciding to become a family caregiver is a big responsibility, but you don’t have to do it alone or have everything figured out immediately. You, your loved one, and the support team can work together to figure things out as you go. Make sure to plan time to care for yourself as well. If you ever feel that the responsibilities of family caregiving are too overwhelming, or if you’d like assistance in how to become a paid family caregiver through our agency, contact us to discuss your options.
Abrio Home Care has helped seniors and those with developmental disabilities feel empowered, independent, and safe in the comfort of home. We offer a free in-home consultation so our care experts can learn about your unique situation and care needs. Contact us at 877-71-ABRIO to learn more about our in-home care services in Mesa, AZ, the surrounding areas, and many other AZ communities.