Contributed by Michelle Hassler
Opening your home to a parent in need of care is a big step. Though the move might be the best decision for you and your parent, the transition can be difficult. Taking the time to plan ahead will create a smoother transition for everyone in the household. Here are a few tips to help you as you prepare to take on the role of an in home caregiver.
Create a Space
Creating a space where your parents can function easily and enjoy their time will help them to feel most at ease. Losing independence is tough – especially when roles reverse and “children” are left to care for ailing or aging parents. If a parent has trouble walking, consider placing their room or designated area in a location that allows easy access to a bathroom and kitchen. If possible, a space that provides privacy will help them to feel like the space is truly their own. Talk to your parents ahead of time to discuss expectations. Ask your parents to walk you through a typical day and find out how they hope to spend their time. For example, if they enjoy watching television, their own TV might be a must-have. Have your parents choose which items they would like to take from their home. Maybe they have a favorite chair or sentimental lamp that they would like to keep close by. Consider how their house is currently arranged and recreate a welcoming atmosphere that is unique to their tastes. Remember, they should not feel like they are in a hospital room, they should feel at home.
Develop a Financial Plan
Taking care of loved ones comes with new and sometimes unexpected expenses. You may need to make renovations to accommodate a wheelchair or install an electronic lift on the staircase. A walk-in shower is also a nice addition for senior citizens if it fits in your budget. Before moving in, ask your parents how they would like to handle their finances. Many parents feel happy and needed when they are able to contribute to household expenses and help their in home caregiver. Every situation is different, but communicating openly about expenses from the beginning will make an often uncomfortable – but important topic approachable. Being transparent about finances tends to put people at ease. If your parents are moving in, it will probably be best for you to take the lead when it comes to these conversations as opposed to a spouse.
As a primary in home caregiver, it is easy to get caught up in new responsibilities and forget that others are adjusting as well. Be sure to touch base and ask how your spouse and/or children are adjusting to the new living arrangement. Continue to nourish these relationships and spend time together doing things that you enjoy. Also, share your concerns or struggles with loved ones to help relieve anxiety and stress. Moving a parent into the household can result in a closer family unit. Leading by example with a dedicated and caring heart could strengthen your bonds with family members. Also, be sure to check-in with your parent. Ask what they like most about the living arrangement and if they would like to see anything change. Making adjustments is necessary as you try to navigate this new situation and create the most beneficial and harmonious environment possible – for everyone.
Keep A Calendar
Being organized is essential when it comes to caregiving. Aging parents often have several medications, frequent doctor’s appointments, and maybe even social activities to keep track of. Set up a dry erase calendar in a visible location for you and your parents to reference. This will help everyone keep track of responsibilities and needs. The Help Calendar in your Lotsa Helping Hands community Hands can help you to organize and allow other family members or friends to share some of the responsibilities of caregiving such as carpooling to appointments. Lotsa Helping Hands will help with the logistics and even send out reminders to people who request to help. This may help to keep your siblings or other relatives who are not the in home caregiver involved in the caregiving process.
Make sure to take a break and do something for yourself when needed. Maybe arrange for a time during the day when you can run errands, go to the gym, or meet with a friend. Remember, if being an in home caregiver becomes too much for you to handle, especially as the health and needs of your parent changes, you may need to seek different arrangements. Being prepared, yet flexible and giving will help you to create a loving space where your parents’ needs are met in the best way possible.