How to Navigate the Three Stages of Caregiving
by Becky Streeter
The three stages of caregiving each present their own challenges. Here are some tips to help you navigating a few of the major struggles of each stage.
You suddenly find yourself in a situation where your loved one needs help with daily tasks and activities.
1. Is there a need for relocation to your home or an assisted living facility?
The first thing to consider is that while you are definitely thinking of your loved one’s health and safety, at this point it is likely not your decision. Your loved one is still in charge of his or her own life, and relocation can be a tricky subject. Your loved one might not want to move at all.
When you present the idea of relocation, make sure you also have a plan for ways your loved one can remain safely at home if that is their decision. This way you will be respecting their desire for independence and familiarity, and not just telling them what they can and cannot do.
2. How will being a caregiver impact your life?
Many caregivers find they have to reduce their hours at work in order to take care of their loved one. Research also shows that caregivers often use their own money to make necessary purchases for their loved one. This can be a double-whammy to the finances.
Make sure you look into the FMLA options through your place of employment. Many companies offer paid leave for those that can prove they have taken up caregiving responsibilities. Also, every state has different programs and services to help support family caregivers, which can include counseling and respite care.
You’ve been a caregiver now for a while and you’re settling into a routine. Make sure it’s a good one.
1. Juggling many responsibilities
On top of your caregiving duties, you might also have a job, family, hobbies and a social life that you’re trying to keep up with. Don’t stretch yourself too thin. Get a calendar and make a plan for your week/month to make sure you are getting in everything you need and want to do. Time management is key.
Caregiving often means taking on tasks that you didn’t picture yourself ever needing to do (making meals, daily visits, handling finances, cleaning linens, assisting with bathing needs). Make sure your schedule has some flexibility for when you are needed, or time you need for yourself, that can pop up unexpectedly.
2. Caring for yourself
You will be able to provide better care for someone else if you first make sure you yourself are physically and mentally healthy. This is perhaps the single most important thing to keep in mind throughout your caregiving journey.
Many caregivers pour everything they have into the care of their loved one, often at the price of their own wellbeing.
Stay connected with friends and family, whether in person, on the phone or via Zoom. Schedule a massage (you deserve and need it!). Go for a walk. Turn your phone off for an hour and do something for yourself.
Ask for help caring for your loved one so you can shoulder some of the increasing responsibilities. Seek a support group to share your experiences with others. Realize you are not in this alone, and you do not have to do this alone.
Your loved one’s health has declined to a point that you alone can no longer provide the best care, and the move to a long-term care facility is imminent.
1. Moving to an assisted living facility
Research locations that are close to you in proximity. Schedule tours and make sure you are prepared with a list of questions, and get them all answered. If your loved one suffers from dementia or Alzheimer’s, make sure the facility has an option to move to memory care as needed.
After the move, check in with your loved one on a regular basis. In-person visits are great, but regular phone calls are nice too. Don’t forget to speak with the staff every once in a while to make sure your loved one has everything they need and is getting along with other residents and employees.
2. Is hospice the right choice?
Hospice is available for those with a life expectancy of six months or less. If you are considering this option, evaluate your loved one’s current health status. Have they been declining very quickly? Are they too frail to complete simple daily tasks without assistance? Are visits to the doctor full of painful tests and treatments?
The time spent in hospice includes pain relief, emotional counseling and spiritual guidance. Hospice also provides support for caregivers to cope with the situation.
Source: Fields, Lisa. “A Guide to Caregiving at Any Stage.” Next Avenue. December 21, 2018. https://www.nextavenue.org/guide-caregiving-at-any-stage.