Very few people sign up to be a full-time caregiver, however, many people find that they have been taking care of a loved one full time without even realizing it. First, you fill your mom’s prescription, then you drive your dad to the doctor, buy the groceries, clean the house, and cook a handful of the meals.
Eventually you will look around and realize that you’ve become a fulltime caregiver without even knowing it.
At first your privacy might feel slightly violated, but fear not! There are many ways to make your life easier. But now that you know you’re taking care of a loved one it’s time to figure out what that really means, and what you deserve in return for your services.
Taking care of a loved one is often a result of health complications which might include, stroke, heart attack, a broken bone, or dementia. All the previously listed health complications can seriously impede the abilities of a senior.
Taking care of a loved one can take over your life as you know it. In many cases caregiving takes the place of a person’s full-time career, other people are able to manage part-time work and raising children on top of caregiving. Your commitment level depends on how much care your loved one requires.
If caregiving has become your new full-time job it’s important you learn the ins and outs, and understand how to provide the best care possible for your loved one.
Below you will find a few simple caregiving tips to help keep yourself organized and keep everyone safe and happy.
Identifying Yourself as a Caregiver
Calling yourself a caregiver is a great place to start when you first begin taking care of a loved one. Even if calling yourself a caregiver is the 4th on your list of titles (after Mom, Doctor, and cook), simply labeling yourself as such will open you up to more resources.
Caregiving can range from checking in with a loved one every few days all the way to managing every aspect of their life from food to medication management. Regardless of what level of care you are giving, labeling yourself as such will make things easier for yourself and the care receiver, as well as doctors and other support staff.
Whether your loved one lives entirely in a wheelchair, or simply starting to notice their thinning hair, you are a caregiver and it’s time you start treating yourself like one.
Write Out a Plan
This might sound a little strange, writing out a plan for aging. However, it can be seriously beneficial to have both short and long-term information written down. Having a clear plan benefits both the caregiving and the care receiver.
Short term planning, will include the daily ins and outs. Things like medication schedules, doctors’ appointments, and prescription schedules will all fall into the category of short-term car information.
Long term planning, will include big picture items such as surgeries or operations, tests, and mobility accommodations.
Long term planning may also include whether or not your loved one wants to live in assistance living for seniors facility. Of course, if your loved one is healthy enough to live in their home they will most likely want to stay there.
Know your limits. It is important that you and your loved one a realistic about the level of care that they require. If you won’t feel comfortable providing your loved one with bathing needs, or you don’t feel you are strong enough to move them from a bed to a wheelchair it is important that you establish what level of care you feel comfortable providing.
Keeping Yourself and Your Loved one Safe
If you are taking care of a loved one in their home it is important that you make accommodations within the home that keep you and the care receiver as safe as possible.
Depending on the mobility of your loved one you may need to seek the help of a professional.
Fall prevention is the first place to start as far as home safety modifications. Preventing your loved one from falling is the easiest way to keep them safe. Fall prevention measures include installing handrails on all staircases, using non-slip stickers in the shower, removing trip hazards, and even installing a chair on heavy use staircases.
Keep in mind that the mobility of your loved one will change over time and it is important to keep that in mind when installing fall prevention measures.
Stay on top of Health Care Needs
When you are taking care of a loved one the health care needs of the care receiver is the most important thing to stay on top of. Understanding the needs of the care receiver is step number one.
Talking to the care receiver’s doctors is usually the first step in understanding their health care needs. Now that you are taking care of a loved one, simply dropping them off at the doctor’s office and waiting in the lobby is no longer enough. You must be in the room listening to what the doctor has to say and putting together a detailed care plan based on the advice of a medical professional.
Maintaining a strict medication schedule will help you stay organized as a caregiver. Staying on top of meds means more than telling your loved on to take a handful of pills. Managing a medication schedule involves a day by day, hour by hour schedule of every tingle medication, calcium supplements, and even herbal remedies like organic blueberry powder.
Absolutely every single medication or supplement must be scheduled and highly regimented if you are going to stay organized as a caregiver.
Establishing home health services will help give you peace of mind as a caregiver.
If you have no training in the medical field there’s no chance, you’re going to be able to perform every task your loved one needs be completed. This is why you should set up health services like a lifeline or in-home nursing for situations you cannot handle or control.
Manage All General Life Needs
Getting old doesn’t all of a sudden mean that you don’t have to worry about getting a mortgage loan or filing for veterans disability benefits. All getting old means is that your loved one might not be able to complete these tasks the way they used to. It’s now your job to ensure that your loved one isn’t letting any chores fall by the wayside.
Elderly people often lose track of their financial and housing needs; thus, it is important that as your loved one’s caregiver you don’t let anyone take advantage of them. Keeping your loved one safe might mean hiring a landlord and tenant attorney if someone’s old age has been taken advantage of.
Now might be the time to have the difficult discussion with your loved one about where they would like to live out the rest of their days. Ensure you loved one that there are many senior living facilities that are part of the over 30 million small business entities in the United States. Not all senior facilities are cold heartless organizations, there is one that fits your needs, it’s just a matter of finding it.
Keep in mind that the vast networks of senior living facilities and the different amenities that they offer. If your loved one is concerned about staying in touch with family and friends, there are many facilities with massive systems of data and network cabling that will allow your loved one to communicate with whoever they wish all across the world.
Implement an Active Lifestyle
Depending on your loved one’s level of mobility this might mean a few different things. If your loved one is mostly immobile or uses a wheelchair, staying active might just mean trying to get outside every day for a short stroll around the neighborhood. In fact, your veterans disability benefits supplier can offer tips for staying mobile as you get older.
If your loved one is lucky enough to still be mobile, then take every possible advantage to get outside and stay moving. The best way to ensure that your loved one doesn’t lose their mobility is to keep them moving.
So, if your loved one struggles with foot pain get them some sneakers for foot problems, or if they have a hard time with uneven surfaces, invest in a nice pair of walking poles. Whatever you need to do to keep your loved one active will make both their life and your own far easier.
Don’t Do This Alone!
For whatever reason, people who take on major caregiving roles often try to do it everything on their own without the help of professionals or other loved ones. There is no reason that taking care of a loved one needs to be something you do on your own.
Get some training. Going out and getting a first-aid certification, or taking some basic caregiving classes might give you the confidence you are lacking. There’s no reason to pretend you’re something you are not. You are an inexperienced caregiver, and being honest with yourself and your abilities will most likely save you a lot of heartache in the future.
Enlisting the help of a friend can take some serious weight off your back. Even if you just give a friend a small grocery list or ask them to fill a prescription on their way home, anything you don’t have to do will save you stress.
Hiring at home help for things like weekly cleaning and laundry tasks will make a serious difference in the amount of time you have to get everything done. These services can be applied to either your home or the home of your loved one.
Hiring medical staff to perform things like sponge baths, injections, and or mobility tasks (such as moving your loved one from a bed to a chair) will help you manage everything. This can be especially true for people with loved ones who need 24/7 medical attention.
If you’re not trained in the medical field, there’s no reason to fake it, especially when you are in over your head.
Installing monitoring systems, like in-home security cameras or CCTV systems will allow you to check in on your loved one even when you’re not around. Camera systems in the home may save you time and stress when you don’t know if your loved one is safe in their home alone.
Keeping Yourself Sane
Many people who find themselves taking care of a loved one will realize that some of their own needs are being sacrificed for those needs of the care receiver.
Though it might seem like dedicating yourself entirely to caregiving is the only option, you will soon realize how emotionally taxing that is. This doesn’t have to be the case.
Maintaining social regularity will do wonders to keep you sane as a caregiver.
Keeping a healthy diet will allow you to be the best caregiver you can. If you’re not healthy, chances are you won’t be able to keep your loved one healthy either.
Taking care of a loved one is no easy task, and I’m not here to tell you otherwise. I am however, here to tell you that it is possible, and there are millions of resources out there to aid in the process.
No matter what stage of the caregiver process you find yourself in, take comfort in the fact that you are not alone. You got this!