Contributed by Senior Planning Services
Many caregivers find that caring for an elderly loved one is not as easy as they had pictured. While willing to do whatever necessary, the full burden can be harder to handle than initially thought. As professionals in the field of Medicaid planning for seniors, Senior Planning Services would like to offer several tips that you should keep in mind if you’ve found yourself in this position. These tips will ensure that you’re able to keep caring for your loved one for without losing your own mind in the family caregiving process.
Make Yourself a Priority
As parents know all too well, when you’re responsible for caring for someone else, it’s easy to put your own needs on the back burner. This is especially true when you’re caring for an elderly loved one. Emotions arise, but you try to deny them, telling yourself that you’re lucky to have this person in your life for a little bit longer. Taking care of them is a small price to pay, right? Unfortunately, this attitude just makes it harder for you to get the self-care that you need. It’s not selfish to want a little time away—and in fact, you should make sure that you take it! If you put all your time and energy into your caregiving responsibilities, you’ll end up facing caregiver burnout. This can be highly detrimental to other important relationships in your life. Make sure you get “me time.”
Accept That You Can’t Do It All
You can’t do it all, and you shouldn’t try. Ask for help from friends and family members. Many times, your elderly loved one’s friends may offer to help—and they genuinely mean it! Take them up on it, even if it’s just to sit with your loved one and chat while you work in another room. Also, take advantage of community services. Is there an adult day care in your area? Don’t feel guilty for taking advantage of it so that you can run errands, attend an appointment, or even take a day for yourself. Be sure you understand what services are covered by your loved one’s insurance.
Common Caregiving Problems
There are a number of stresses that are common when you step up to be a caregiver for another individual. Financial stress is more common than many people think. It isn’t just the hours lost at work when you decide to become a caregiver for a loved one. It’s every meal picked up at a restaurant for both of you instead of just yourself (or even fixing a meal at home). It’s the extra cost of groceries, cleaning supplies, and electricity and water. Then there are the costs of medicine, therapy, and doctor’s visits. Often, you’ll find yourself becoming responsible for the cost of your loved one’s care—and that may be more stressful than you were prepared for up front.
Then there are other types of stress: social stress, as your activities revolve around the person you’re caring for; emotional stress as you watch someone you love deteriorate; and even environmental stress, as you move away from your own environment or make changes to it in order to accommodate your loved one. All of these problems are very real, and caregivers who hope to be able to continue long-term will benefit from acknowledging and addressing them early in the caregiving process.
Legal and Financial Affairs
There is a point at which many elderly individuals become unable to make decisions for themselves. Ideally, you want to make sure that all of the legal affairs are lined up before your loved one reaches that point. Consult a lawyer immediately to have a will drawn up. You also need a Durable Power of Attorney and a Medical Power of Attorney in case those become necessary down the road.
When Is It Time to Stop Caregiving?
The decision to stop providing care for a loved one yourself can be a difficult one. In many cases, people continue trying to provide care long past the point where they should step back and turn things over to someone else. If you’re experiencing any of the following problems, it’s probably time—or even past time—you looked for another solution:
- You are experiencing undue financial stress as a result of your caregiving responsibilities. This includes stress from your decision to leave the workforce as well as financial stress from medical expenses.
- Your loved one has progressed medically beyond the point where you are comfortable providing care.
- Your needs or the needs of your family are going consistently unmet because you are caring for your loved one.
When you reach any of the points listed above, it’s time to look into other options. Caregiving is a labor of love, and there are sacrifices that are made as a result of those decisions, but that doesn’t mean that you or your family should suffer.
When you choose to become a caregiver, you take a heavy weight on your shoulders. For many people, it’s a weight that is well worth it. For others, that burden is too heavy to bear alone. As a caregiver, be sure to reach out to your community, your family, and your friends to receive the help that you need in order to keep providing the care your loved one deserves. Keep in mind that it’s not just about them! You have the right to have your needs met, too.