Many seniors eventually need some help from others while only a minority of people transition from being fully independent to deceased. When an individual does start to need help, many times a spouse, adult child, or grandchild will step-up as the primary caregiver. This is especially true if it is just a little help with errands or housekeeping.
But in other cases when the care is more substantial, family members may find themselves unprepared and overwhelmed (especially if the adult child themself is a senior which is growing currently due to life spans lengthening). Geriatric or disabled care needs are rarely discussed until the need arises unfortunately and additionally some may feel required to be the caregiver for their family member even if this is not the best fit. While we do have an ethical responsibility for our family members, you can care for your family member without being their caregiver. No one should make you feel obligated if this isn’t something you feel is right for you. Set appropriate limits and help however much you’re able “behind the scenes”.
People often are promised to not put their aging or disabled loved one in a “nursing home”. If “aging in place” is the desired course there are a few things to consider.
- Helping with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). Is this something the family can manage successfully or are there tasks the family will not perform such as incontinence care, tube feedings, or transfers with equipment like Hoyer lifts. Rotations every two hours in bed to prevent bed sores can be demanding both physically and emotionally since this is both during the day and night. Dementias may increase the demands already needed physically.
- Safety issues. Fall risk, driving abilities, and exploitation from others must be evaluated. Should they stay in their current home with an in-home caregiver or move in with a family member? Perhaps a long-term care facility may be the safest for this individual?
- Medical and health issues. What are their conditions currently diagnosed? What happens if new symptoms or disabilities develop? Does the family understand the different options available and what the best course of action may be? Is there an adequate support system of knowledgeable persons to assist with the changes that may arise? Hiring a Geriatric Care Manager can ensure quality of care and life without you being expected to have the answers to all questions. These professionals can oversee care and know what to expect if the family is needing guidance.
- Legal and financial issues. What if your loved-one can no longer make sound decisions? Is there someone appointed and legally able to do this on their behalf? Planning ahead and completing the necessary legal paperwork will make it easier for a family to assume this role when needed. Surprise, Medicare doesn’t pay for everything! Has the family reviewed what is and isn’t paid for and understand what financial needs there are currently and may be in the future?
- Self-care. Helping your loved one is rewarding but is this right for you? No one should be forced into a Caregiver role. If you are a naturally caring person however you may make a great family caregiver. Be sure you have “you” time each day to assist in preventing caregiver burnout. As a family caregiver you will find your “free time” becomes limited and you will be missing many social events outside the home so this “you” time will need to be regularly scheduled. There may be an adult day care nearby to allow for this “you” time.
- Family Help. Do you have siblings or other family members that can help? It may be complicated initially but can be in everyone’s best interest when properly established (and written down). However understand reaction to news your family member is declining will differ among others. Allow time for everyone to process the new information being provided and schedule a family meeting a couple days later. Be sure everyone involved in the meeting has a clear idea of the medical status of your loved one by a qualified doctor. Don’t forget to focus on the facts and be prepared to compromise.
- Responsibilities. Who will be the primary caregiver? How will the other sibling(s) or family assist the primary caregiver? This could be days “off” for maintaining life balance or possibly financial compensation if replacing someone’s current employment. Another way to assist a primary family caregiver is to hire a homecare company to have regular breaks scheduled for the primary caregiver whether it is overnight care, weekend care, or even four hours daily so the primary caregiver can care for their own needs.
Family members may also qualify for financial compensation through Medicaid Provider services or Long Term Care Insurance (LTC). Of course there are stipulations and requirements and many variables impact if your loved one who requires care is eligible for this. Some LTC insurance policies expressly prohibit a family member being paid for the care. Calling a state-licensed and insured homecare company can assist with beginning this process through the Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) if Medicaid or reviewing the LTC insurance policy. If your loved one qualifies and is approved through DADS or the LTC insurance policy the homecare company can then hire you as the senior’s primary caregiver therefore allowing you to receive this financial compensation as an employee through the homecare company. (En Su Casa Caregivers can assist with both the Long Term Care and the Medicaid provider services options.)
When you find yourself or family facing this new unknown you’ll need a strong support system to ensure the safety and quality of life of the individual now needing care. While this may be new and potentially scary you can have success when you’re armed with the right knowledge.
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By Jennifer Openshaw O’Brien