Taking care of an aging loved one a big task, however there are several things you can do to lighten the load. Here are 8 tips for new family caregivers to help you be the most effective caregiver you can be.
1. Set Your Boundaries from Start
Determine the number of hours you have available or what days of the week you will be available. If your loved one tends to call you 10 times a day be clear about when you will be able to take calls, especially if you have work of your own to be done. It’s ok to say, only call if there’s an emergency.
2. Utilize Home Delivery
Running all over town buying food and supplies can quickly run you ragged. These days nearly any product you need can be found on Amazon and delivered directly to your door. They even offer subscription service on everyday items such as toilet paper, laundry detergent, multi-vitamins, adult diapers, and so much more. Having the essentials delivered automatically can free up a lot of time for other tasks. As a bonus you often get a discount on the products when you subscribe.
3. Order Meal Kits
Services such as Hello Fresh or Blue apron provide meal kits delivered directly to your door. This can relieve a lot of stress over meal planning and meal preparation since everything you need for a tasty nutritious meal is delivered right to your door eliminating several trips to the grocery store.
4. Learn About Their Ailment
If your loved one suffers from a particular ailment such as Alzheimer's, learn as much as you can about the condition so you know how it is likely to progress over time. Knowing what to expect can make you a more effective caregiver and will help you plan ahead as your loved ones needs change.
5. Get Organized
Gather critical information in one place. A list of medications, medical history, insurance information, power of attorney, financial obligations, emergency contacts, etc. These documents will likely need to be updated from time to time so it can be helpful to set a calendar reminder to review them at least every three months.
6. Get Help
Help from a housekeeper, a gardener, or a professional caregiver can give you the much-needed time to recharge. Just taking a day or two to take care of yourself will make you a more effective caregiver and reduce the likelihood of burning out or developing resentment toward the person you are caring for.
7. Make the Home Safe
Make sure you have all the safety equipment you need like handrails, ramps, shower chairs, and proper lighting. Remove throw rugs and other trip hazards. This guide will help you thoroughly prepare your home for a senior with safety in mind.
8. Plan Ahead
It is likely that your loved one’s needs will increase over time. At some point it may become necessary to find full time help or even an assisted living community. This point will be different for everyone and that is why it’s important to think about it ahead of time and have a plan. Maybe you will be the primary caregiver until they can no longer walk, or maybe it will be until they can no longer use the bathroom themselves. There is no right or wrong answer, but it is important to have a plan for when that day comes.
Ty Strahl is a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA) based in Spokane Washington. Her job is to help navigate the many aspects of aging and to help seniors who are in transition to find the right solutions for their individual needs.