Caring for an aging loved one is rewarding and challenging all at once. Family members who share in caregiving duties face a learning curve for managing the needs of their senior adult, often while juggling their own responsibilities of work, children, and day-to-day life.
Care takes a village, and great resources are essential as you navigate your role in your loved one’s care. Here are some tips and tools for finding balance as a family caregiver.
Remember self care.
Don’t neglect your own needs. Caring for a loved one can be physically and emotionally taxing, especially for individuals who aren’t able to share the workload with other family members.
Regular, intentional self care is good for you and your senior loved one. Building in time to eat, sleep, exercise, and do activities you enjoy can safeguard against accidents and oversights and also helps ward off caregiver burnout.
It’s best not to wait until you are experiencing symptoms of caregiver burnout to seek assistance with the care of your loved one. Professional home care agencies offer a variety of services that can be tailored to your level of need and knowing that reliable home care help is just a phone call away can bring family caregivers invaluable peace of mind.
Call in reinforcements with respite care.
Respite care is a home care service specifically designed to give family members a break from caregiving duties when they need it.
In-home aides are able to assist your loved one with their personal care, light housekeeping, medication reminders, meal prep, and more. They also provide valuable companionship to seniors during times when you are not able to be with them.
Plan for the future.
For even the most well-prepared families, needs and plans will change over time. Honest conversations are the best tool for navigating unexpected circumstances and for communicating priorities and concerns.
If possible, family caregivers should encourage ongoing conversations with their senior loved one about their goals and directives for their own care, now and in the future. These discussions can be difficult to initiate, but studies reveal that the majority of seniors find open conversations about end-of-life care to be comforting and beneficial.
Create a caregiver calendar.
So much of providing care to a senior family member revolves around tracking doctors’ appointments, errands, and prescription schedules. Adhering to a routine isn’t just good for seniors’ mental health and sense of normalcy – medication errors, including missed and doubled doses, are the most common cause of safety incidents in older adults.
When multiple family members are contributing to caregiving duties, it is critically important that you develop a system for determining what tasks have been completed and what still needs to be done.
Creating a shared family calendar can help keep everyone involved in your loved one’s care informed of upcoming events, appointments, and regimens. Many families benefit from using digital calendars and scheduling tools that can be updated and shared from anywhere.
Streamline communication among family caregivers.
For families who are sharing in the care of a senior loved one, coordination is key. As your needs change over time and medical providers update prescriptions and care plans, it is important to create a healthy space to share developments and make decisions. It’s a good idea to agree on a system that keeps communication in one place – Tech-savvy families may want to create a group text or a shared digital document, while others may want to share a journal.
Each family caregiver has a unique relationship with your senior adult and their own perspective on the caregiving experience. Plan regular check-ins to discuss updates, raise concerns, and delegate upcoming tasks even during times when there is no big news to share.
Whether you are working alongside other family members or taking on the bulk of your loved one’s care alone, there are many online and in-person support groups for caregivers in need of a sounding board. Many family caregivers benefit from the opportunity to exchange resources and perspectives with other people who can relate to their needs.
Want to learn more about how to thrive as a family caregiver? Connect with professionals who can help you make a plan that supports the needs of your whole family.