Most people will find themselves needing a little extra help as they age. According to an AARP survey conducted in 2018, three out of every four adults over the age of 50 want to stay in their own homes and communities as they age. For many people, the only way that this desire can become a reality is for someone in the family to step up to the plate and become a family caregiver.
Caregiving can be a difficult job at times. The Family Caregiver Alliance reports that around 39.8 million caregivers provide care to adults with an illness or disability. When you’re responsible for the day-to-day care of a family member, you can find yourself faced with situations that you might not feel prepared to deal with, such as housing, end-of-life care decisions, and how to continue working. Here are a few of the best tips for taking care of your loved ones at home when they need you most.
Set Up Your Living Environment
Trying to run across town to care for an aging parent can be tiring. Many people find it to be more comfortable and cost-effective to move their loved one into the home. However, multigenerational family living isn’t always a smooth transition.
A few tips and tricks can get you off to a healthy start. Do a walk-through of your home to look for safety hazards such as loose rugs, cords across walkways, and poor bathroom design. You might need to make a few changes like adding grab bars in the bathroom and changing out door knobs for use to use levers.
If your loved one is in a wheelchair or has other specialized equipment for mobility, you’ll need to do a quick inventory of your home. Seniors who use wheelchairs will need ramps to get in and out of the house, wide doors and hallways, and adequate space to turn around in the bathroom. If your loved one has a walker or cane, it’s critical to make sure they have plenty of room to ambulate safely and strategically placed areas to rest when walking long distances.
Find the Help You Need
One of the most critical things you can do for your loved one’s health and your sanity is to find the right kind of help in your community. Many older adults are eligible for Medicare, which covers various levels of community-based care, like home care and hospice. Both of these levels of care assign nurses and other healthcare professionals to visit with your loved one in your home to provide services. Home care and hospice nurses are specially trained in the health and communication needs of seniors, and work with community physicians to provide specific types of care. Just make sure to keep certain things in mind — such as your state’s regulations on home-care workers and doing your own research on a specific candidate — before trusting the care of your loved one to one of these professionals.
Other community-based services like adult day care, senior centers, and meals-on-wheels can be excellent options. These services provide different levels of care depending on the needs of your loved one. Adult day care is a good option for those seniors who need ongoing monitoring throughout the day. If your loved one is safe home alone, but needs help with meals, looking into a home-delivered meal service might be a good idea. Senior centers are excellent options for older adults who are independent in most activities of daily living who enjoy socializing with other seniors.
Sometimes the help that you need won’t be in the form of a human. Technology advancements like artificial intelligence (AI) can help people with disabilities and chronic health conditions. Voice-activated technology like Alexa or your smartphone can assist those who have vision impairments with texting or placing a call. Smart home technology can also make it safer for those with illness and disability to stay home alone. You can find systems that turn lights on and off, adjust the temperature, or even turn appliances like the stove off. Some systems can tell if a person falls and can alert emergency services for help.
Get Creative with Work
If you want to be home full time with your loved one but still need to work, you’re going to have to get creative with your career. Recent advancements in technology make work-from-home jobs for caregivers much more accessible. You might consider being a freelance writer or editor, online shop owner, or online tutor. Be sure to do plenty of research about all the things you might need, including business insurance, a website, business name, and tax ID number before you get started.
Plan for the Future
No one wants to talk about end-of-life planning and advanced directives with their parents or other loved ones. In fact, just a little over a quarter of Americans have any advance directives in place. Dodging this challenging conversation can leave you in a bind when something does happen to them. A few critical things you want to discuss with your loved one include:
- Where they want to live their last days and where they want to die.
- Preparations for death and funeral expenses.
- What their wishes are for pain and symptom management.
- Any special requests or activities they would like to accomplish before they die.
Being a family caregiver can be challenging and rewarding at the same time. You might not always know the solution to the problems you face, but with these tips, you should be on your way to caregiving success.
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