Caregiving by its nature is not usually something that can be added on top of your daily activities in a neat, stress-free package. It must be integrated with your many other responsibilities, and for that you must acquire new knowledge and a different set of skills.
As a starting point, it is important to recognize that each situation is different. You will need to learn as much as you can about your loved ones’ circumstances and requirements, so that you can take clear, decisive action when necessary. Whether you’re planning ahead or on the fly, it’s essential to determine exactly where and how you, as a caregiver, fit in. You need to understand your strengths and weaknesses, what other family members will contribute, and what resources you’ll need to be able to manage the eldercare situation, your own family, and your job successfully.
If we know a time will come when we have caregiving responsibilities for an elderly person, then the more we do in advance to prepare, the easier it will be for everyone concerned. Here are some things you can do in advance to prepare for a time when you may need to intervene:
Talk with your employer
Find out what the caregiver policies are and what options might be available should you need them. Would they consider staggered hours, job sharing, a shorter work week, a temporary leave of absence, or the option to work from home?
Ask professionals for advice and assistance; you will get the information and support you need more rapidly and accurately. Read relevant books and magazines and attend educational sessions for workers with aging relatives.
Have the paperwork in order
Arrange to have power of attorney for personal care and property, as well as wills (including wishes for end-of-life care), financial information, keys, and contact information for friends and family readily available. You should also have a record of your parents’ Social Insurance Numbers, medical insurance numbers, and contact information for medical insurance providers.
Getting started as a caregiver
For employees who find they’ve taken on additional demands looking after elderly loved ones, there are several steps they should consider:
- Ask for help. Be prepared for the fact that being the adult child of an aging parent or a caregiver to a loved one can be stressful. Sometimes during the caregiving journey, energy changes to fatigue, and motivation changes to feelings of being overwhelmed. Thinking you can do it all can lead to burnout after a few months.
- Be open and honest with the people in your life. Don’t hide your feelings or your eldercare concerns. Be honest and clear, and open to work out a solution that will keep you, your elderly loved one, your family, and your employer happy.
- Learn to balance your time. Just helping a loved one with simple tasks like grooming, bathing, or dressing can take up to nine hours a week. Escorting your mother or father to medical appointments can take a whole afternoon. Effective time management is essential. Here are a few tips that often help:
- Be open to do different things at different times.
- Evaluate your priorities on a weekly basis.
- Divide tasks into what you can do versus what you can delegate. Recognize that just like childcare, formal caregivers can provide care and homemaking assistance for a loved one.
- Have a back-up plan for emergency help.
Courtesy of Homewood Health