When the time comes for a family to take on the responsibility of caring for an older loved one, it’s a time of drastic change due to new responsibilities. Before the transition is made, the necessary arrangements should have been discussed and implemented. All questions and concerns should have been answered.
What It Means to Care for a Loved One
Taking on the responsibility of caring for a loved one, according to helpguide.org, “… is an act of kindness, love, and loyalty. And as life expectancies increase, medical treatments advance, and increasing numbers of people live with chronic illness and disabilities, more and more of us will participate in the caregiving process.”
You’re Only Human
This decision means that your life will forever change. Your schedule will change. Your priorities will change. It’s inevitable that you will feel overwhelmed or helpless. Fear not!
Helpguide.org continues: “Caregiving can trigger a host of difficult emotions, including anger, fear, resentment, guilt, helplessness, and grief. It’s important to acknowledge and accept what you’re feeling, both good and bad. Don’t beat yourself up over your doubts and misgivings. These feelings don’t mean that you don’t love your family member—they simply mean you’re human.”
Now that the time has arrived, it’s important to have a list of topics to discuss with the new caregiver. Caring.com writes: “You’ve finally found a great personal in-home caregiver or companion for your parent, and tomorrow is her first day. But wait: Have you forgotten to tell her anything?”
You won’t forget anything if you make a list of important topics for families to discuss with the new caregiver. Thankfully, there are many websites that offer suggestions. Here are a few from Caring.com.
Be sure to go over each medicine and each medicine’s schedule, according to Caring.com, and inform them as to whether or not the medicine should be taken with food and if the patient prefers water or juice.
Food and Drink
Make special note of your loved one’s likes and dislikes, as well as any special foods or drinks that they like. Also list food allergies or foods to avoid.
Be sure to list if your loved one is independent in this area or needs assistance (list needed assistance, if this is applicable). If they have any digestive or excretory issues, make sure these are known. If any medications are needed or are to be avoided, list them.
Caring.com writes: “Does your (loved one) take walks, and if so, where and for how long? What about car drives or outings to the mall, a museum, or a movie? Does he garden or spend time outside? Does he need help or reminders to put on a jacket, hat, or sunscreen? Should he be encouraged to get up and walk around, or does he need a reminder to use his walker? Does he have any indoor-exercise routines?”
Make the caregiver aware of naptimes, sleep times, and any issues with sleeping. Also be sure to note if any medication is given just before sleeping.
Interaction with others is sometimes the best medicine. Caring.com observes: “Who can … (the caregiver) call if he wants company or is feeling lonely or down? List names, phone numbers, and the relationships to your parent. Do any of these people ever stop by to visit, or should they be invited? What’s their availability?”
Eating, Cooking, and Cleaning
Things such as portion size, assistance with eating/cooking/cleaning, and level of independence with each must be given to the new caregiver.
If your loved one is typically hot or cold, this should be addressed. If your loved one is incapable of letting the caregiver know verbally if they are too hot or too cold, cues as to which they are feeling must be shared.
What types of around-home activities does your loved one enjoy or is he or she capable of doing? Does your loved one need assistance with certain activities, or are his or her activities limited to assisted exercises or things of that nature? Does your loved one enjoy conversation, or prefer quiet?
Last, and most importantly, make a comprehensive list of emergency contacts, including information such as: name, phone number, address, and relationship. Be sure to include all doctors and hospitals involved with the elder’s care.
Taking care of loved ones in their twilight years is a daunting task for anyone, but with some simple issues addressed, it can be a much easier undertaking.