New to family caregiving? How to get started
As your parents age, it may become increasingly clear that they are going to need a lot of extra care. Equally, your partner or a family member may fall ill or have an accident, and require daily care. As a result, you may find yourself in the unexpected role of a family caregiver, sometimes almost overnight.
Taking on the role of a family caregiver can be both daunting and challenging, and you may struggle to know quite where to start. So, we’ve put together these tips to help you get started.
What does your loved one want?
Someone who is suddenly ill or whose health is in decline will naturally be worried and concerned about the future. Talk to them (if you can) about what they would like for their care and living arrangements. Be prepared that most seniors will want to “come home”, regardless of whether that is a suitable option or not! And don’t assume that parents will either expect or want to come and live with you, or indeed you to live with them. (More on this here.)
You may need to make decisions on behalf of your loved one on medical and financial matters. Check if there is a power of attorney in place (blog link?) and if not, draw one up as quickly as possible. This will make dealing with banks, paying bills, talking to doctors and pharmacies etc, far easier. Remember to include other family members as attorneys if you want to share the paperwork. (See below.)
Talk to the family
Talking through the situation with the family can help everyone understand and to come to terms with what has happened. Remember to include your loved one’s wishes too. Between you all, make and write down plans for both the short and long term. This may involve each family member taking on specific times/shifts for care until extra care or other arrangement can be made.
If you decide it would be best that you become the primary caregiver, make sure that the whole family will help you. It can be difficult for family members who live far apart to share the physical workload on a daily basis, but there is still plenty they can do remotely such as paperwork. organizing tradesmen, ordering grocery deliveries online, and paying bills. Make sure they book in regular in person respite visits for you too!
Call a home care company
Home care companies have a wealth of experience in helping new family caregivers. Home care firms like us will understand that you may feel out of your depth, and can offer practical help with experienced caregivers both in the early days and ongoing, as required. Please don’t be afraid to call – we genuinely are here to help.
On a practical note, the earlier you call, the earlier we can help. We will come to meet you for a consultation, to better understand your needs, the home environment, and help assess what level of home care would best suit you and your loved one. Once that’s done, we can put a plan in place.
As you can appreciate, we can’t just send our caregivers out for the first time without having met you, and having a care plan in place. Once you’ve had your assessment and visits in place, you can of course request extra visits and book longer periods of respite care as required.
Consult the experts
When illness or ill health is an issue, you may not know much about your loved one’s condition and their requirements. Learn as much as you can by talking to medical professionals, health workers and home care experts. The more information you have, the better prepared you can be.
Be wary of consulting “Dr Google” as it can get overwhelming (and a little scary!). Instead, consult a specialist organization website for specific conditions such as diabetes, dementia, and Alzheimer’s, arthritis and many others. Many have great resources to help you as the primary caregiver to help your loved one better.
Adaptations and timescales
Be realistic about how long it takes to organize and make adaptations if required. You may need to rearrange you home to accommodate your loved one on a ground floor, add ramps and perhaps adapt the bathroom, etc. If adaptations are required, call a company with experience in this kind of work.
We have a lost of approved trade and services Partners here at Vytality at Home that we know do a very good job! Again, the earlier you consult a company, the sooner they can quote and book in the job as required.
Local community support
We are constantly surprised at just how many people in our Calgary communities give up their time to help others. From dial a ride transport to social clubs and outings, there are lots of choices to support seniors and the disabled – and their family caregivers. Go online to discover what’s available, or call us for our local support network knowledge; we’re happy to help.
When we consider becoming a family caregiver, we may not realise just how much extra work and disruption it will add to our own lives. If you have a family of your own, or work, becoming a family caregiver will take time from both of these. Be realistic about how much you can do, and when.
Home care from Vytality at Home can give you the peace of mind that a loved one is being looked after by caring professionals while you can continue to live your life. Our two hour visits allow plenty of time to give personal care, do some chores, maybe do a brain game to keep aging minds active, and have a chat too.
Chatting is perhaps one of the most important things our caregivers do. It gives your loved one another window on the outside world, and something different to talk to you about!
Build your own emotional support network
Becoming a family caregiver can be emotionally draining, so it’s important that you can talk it through with supportive friends and colleagues. Once you start talking about this, you’ll discover that a lot of your social circle have similar experiences, especially in the case of caring for aging and/or widowed parents. Never underestimate the restorative power of someone just saying “I know, my mom is just the same”!
Contact us at Vytality at Home
Please do call us to discuss your situation There is no obligation and even if you don’t opt for home care at the present, you’ll know what is available for the future. As a leading home care provider in Calgary, we really do want to support local people in their family caregiver role right from the start.