Oftentimes, people find themselves gradually becoming a home caregiver for a loved one, in a process that can extend from months to years, and so feel relatively prepared for the role. Other times, people are thrust into the role of caregiver without much warning or initial support available, due to a sudden illness or life-altering accident.
Whichever way you may have found yourself entering into this role, and however secure you may feel, the following tips that we have outlined will help to ensure that you are fully prepared and supported, enabling a smooth transition into an important role in a loved one’s life.
Whether your role as caregiver was an unexpected occurrence or a gradual process, it’s likely that you have hundreds of questions bouncing around your brain that are almost overwhelming – from what food is best and maintaining a good diet, to how to manage intimate care (if necessary) and how to allow your loved one to retain a sense of independence and identity.
Fortunately, there are tons of resources out there that provide the guidance you seek and, even better, organizations such as the Red Cross and the National Caregivers Association that have been known to run classes relating to this role and could well be of use in this scenario.
Once you have established your role as caregiver, it’s essential that you discuss with other family members the ways in which they can be of help, in the long-term and the short-term. For example, it’s important to ensure that there is some form of contingency plan should you yourself become ill or unable to fulfil your duties in the role of home caregiver, and prevent the role of home care falling entirely on your shoulders.
Many people end up in the role of home caregiver to a loved one, and it is this network of people who will be an invaluable source of comfort and understanding during times of stress or difficulty. Simply look online to find any local or online groups of caregivers with whom you can share your experiences, give and receive tips/advice, and have a sounding board to mull over difficult decisions with.
Depending on the needs of the person you’re caring for, it’s possible that you may require specialist equipment, so it’s well worth looking into what you might need to be prepared. For example if your loved one is bedridden and requiring constant medical support from a hospital bed, it’s important to be aware that hospital beds have different sized sheets and that you may need to purchase sheets tailored specifically for hospital beds.
Financial and Legal Effects
Although one of least favorable aspects of providing home care to a loved one, discussing financial and legal possibilities is integral to the caregiving role. Ideally, you need to know if your loved one has a will, if you are going to need to acquire power of attorney and how to do that, and how you are going to finance the care of your loved one, as you may be required to give up work and purchase expensive but necessary equipment.
The final thing you need to be aware of is the importance of research – for yourself, other family members, and your loved one. There are many organizations listed online that can provide assistance or beneficial information, including the Family Caregiver Alliance, Caregiver Action Network, and National Alliance for Caregiving.
You may be feeling overwhelmed or worried about your role of caregiver, whether you were prepared for it or not, but ensuring that you create a supportive network and consider the difficult questions, you can lighten the load immensely, and start to see the rewards such a role can offer you.