While thinking about home care, we mustn’t overlook the most common type of home care in America today, the care of the senior adult by their family. Family who cares for and oversees the care of their loved one can really make a difference in their quality of care and their quality of life. Sometimes, the family just needs the right support to make this type of arrangement manageable.
How do you make family caregiving work? There are several strategies that you should employ. First, make sure that you are caring for yourself. You can not care well for others if you are not healthy yourself. Make sure that you are eating healthy, getting plenty of sleep, and exercising regularly. Explore ways to reduce your stress. Consider joining a caregiver support group and hiring support. Many caregivers are women between 35-55 who are in the “sandwich generation”, often caring for both their children and parents, while trying to maintain a career. It is impossible to do it all alone, so actively look for ways to give yourself support.
Secondly, don’t be afraid to call on other folks for help. If you or your loved one has a church support group, ask them if they could donate a few hours to helping you. Perhaps they could sit with your senior for a few hours so that you can get out of the house. Some churches can offer transportation to appointments or meals for the family weekly to alleviate some stress.
Having a companion during the hours that the family caregiver is at work is a much used strategy. As geriatric care managers, we recommend working with a reputable non-medical home care company who will do background checks for you. If you choose to go the private route, be sure to interview and check references. You should do this even if you know the person from church, or if a friend has recommended them. An interview and reference check is helpful in preventing problems. You can also pay to have a background check done with a company specializing in this. If you hire a private caregiver, you are also responsible for social security taxes and any payroll taxes required by your state. You should also check with your homeowners insurance to make sure you are covered should this person be injured in your home.
If you do hire a companion, make sure you use that person to full potential. She can run errands, transport your loved one to activities, medical tests, and in some situations to the doctor. She can do laundry, light housekeeping, and prepare meals for you. Have that person do as much as possible to take tasks off of your shoulders. Some families choose to use adult day services to alleviate stress for the caregiver. Adult day services can provide structured activities, therapies, and meals during regular daytime hours at a reasonable cost. The advantages of adult day services are that you don’t have to trust a private caregiver in your senior’s home, it is typically less expensive than private companion care, and the activities are therapeutic for the senior. Seniors often build lasting friendships in these centers.
Thirdly, don’t forget the value of technology in assisting the family caregiver. Technology today allows seniors to live in their homes longer. Examples of this technology can include:
1) Emergency alert systems that notify someone if the senior falls
2) Medication dispensers that remind the senior to take their medications and will alert the caregiver if she doesn’t take her meds
3) Motion Detectors that allow a caregiver to know where the senior is and whether or not they have had normal movement that day
•4) Video cameras that allow you to see your senior
Lastly, if you are stressed and overwhelmed, remember that there are senior care professionals to help you look at options and offer suggestions. You can find a qualified geriatric care manager by clicking here. You don't have to do it all on your own. We look forward to bringing your more valuable information in the weeks to come!