Caring for an ill or aging loved one is hard work, and something that a lot of people do. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 34 million people in the United States provide unpaid care to an ill or disabled adult.
On average, these family caregivers provide over 20 hours of care every week. There’s a financial investment as well: many caregivers end up spending thousands of dollars out of their own pocket or cutting back on their working hours.
If you’re a family caregiver, be proud of the work you do. It can be a big sacrifice. Here are some tips to make your job easier.
1. Make sure the right legal documents are in place
Managing your loved one’s medical care and finances will be a lot easier if the correct legal tools have been utilized. Does your loved one have a health care directive that states what kind of medical care they want to receive? This will prevent you from having to guess at their wishes in an emergency. Is there a power of attorney that provides authorization and guidance for medical and financial decisions?
If your loved one hasn’t had these documents created, consider setting up some time for them to meet with an attorney. If your loved one no longer has the capacity to handle a task like this, the attorney can help you investigate other options for protecting their best interests.
2. Take time to care for yourself
Do you spend so much time worrying about your loved one that you forget to take care of yourself? If so, you’re not alone. Caregiving can be stressful and exhausting.
Make sure you’re getting enough rest and looking after your own health. Don’t forget to schedule time to do something nice for yourself, whether it’s a trip to the salon, happy hour with friends, a Mariners game – whatever makes you happy. Ultimately, some time away will make you a better caregiver.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
No one can do everything by themselves. Don’t be afraid to ask your siblings or other relatives for help providing care. People who don’t live in the same area can still help by providing financial support, or using some of their time off work to give you a break.
If you and your family are having a hard time agreeing on how to care for your loved one, elder mediation might be a good solution to your problems.
4. Know when it’s time to call a professional
At a certain point, your loved one’s condition may progress to the point where it is no longer reasonable for the family to provide care. You may need an in-home nurse, assisted living or a nursing home. This isn’t giving up; it’s doing what’s right.
If finances are a concern, know that there are a lot of options out there. Medicaid can provide coverage for long-term care. If your loved one is a veteran, they may have access to the Aid and Attendance program.