If you recently started caring for an aging parent or a loved one with a disability, you are not alone. The Family Caregiver Alliance estimates that 65.7 million people in this country are caregivers. AARP research shows the value of those unpaid caregiving services totaled $450 billion in 2009.
Five Tips to Help Caregivers Better Manage Their New Responsibilities
- Learn About Local Services. We started our list with what we believe is an important part of successful caregiving. That is, accepting the idea that you will need help on a routine basis and knowing where to find it. The Department of Aging maintains a list of Pennsylvania’s local agencies on aging you can contact for assistance. For Marylanders, those offices can be located here. These organizations can connect you with the programs and services in your area.
- Speak with an Attorney. The role of a caregiver can be a complicated one. It can create conflict in even the strongest of families. One way to help ease some of these stressors is to make sure your senior loved one has the right legal documents in place. From a power of attorney to a will, it is important they document their wishes. Don’t wait for a crisis to occur.
- Organize Their Medical File. Managing medications, juggling appointments and coordinating care across multiple health care providers can be overwhelming. The best way to do that is to create a home medical file. Use it to keep copies of all of your senior loved one’s health-related documents and calendars. There are free websites that allow you to safely store this information.
- Utilize Respite Services. As we mentioned earlier, accepting that you will need help is one of the best ways to keep both you and your senior loved one happy and healthy. Respite services are one avenue for help. Enlisting the support of an in-home caregiver allows you to take a break on a regular basis. It also gives you the opportunity to develop relationships with local home care partners. If you become ill or have an emergency of your own, they can step in to help care for your senior loved one until you are back in action again.
- Take Care of You. For caregivers, this advice often seems unrealistic when you already feel as if there aren’t enough hours in the day. Getting a good night’s rest, exercising for 30 minutes most days of the week, and eating a healthy diet are necessities for caregivers. Statistics from Gallup show why you should make caring for yourself a priority. Their research found that a typical healthy adult has an average physical health score of 83. The average caregiver, however, only scores a 77.4. It’s no secret that caregivers often end up with a medical crisis of their own.
We hope these suggestions help make the transition to caregiver go more smoothly for you and for your loved one. Learn more about the services at SpiriTrust Lutheran Home Care and Hospice® and how we can help you.