Managing the care of aging parents and loved ones requires that we family caregivers learn an entirely new set of rules and roles. On any given day we grapple with questions like: Who makes the decisions? Who pays for what? We also ride the daily emotional rollercoaster, simultaneously feeling sad, angry, guilty, loving and helpless and often wonder if we are “losing it.”
My personal approach to family caregiving is based on the principles of planning, and is the secret to my effectiveness in my role as family caregiver. To be proactive not reactive, is my eldercare mantra – look ahead and make plans to balance work/life responsibilities while handling the all-consuming responsibilities of eldercare.
At any given time, we can fully expect to help our parents with errands, housekeeping, transportation, bill paying, medical attention, and much, much more – and why so many people keep their head in the sand and wait for an eldercare crisis to hit them head on is a mystery to me. Eldercare is not a matter of if, but when.
The American family has undergone big changes – nobody’s home anymore. We spend most of our time at work, at school, and at play. Because of this modern-day reality, we are better off figuring out early on who else will be helping us. Limitations of personal and professional relationships, time, distance, finances, stamina, and skill dictate how much help we can realistically offer.
Plus, dealing with aging parents from long distance is almost the same as dealing with strangers — there can be so much you do not know.
Create a care team
The help that you receive from a more informal network of support may be more readily available, reliable and affordable than paid care providers. Make a list of people who can help you: siblings, friends and neighbors, and community volunteers. If your parents belong to a religious community, what support services do they offer members?
Checking in regularly with the use of apps greatly simplifies caregiving tasks. Type “home-monitor system” in your Internet search engine for a variety of products and services that make keeping in touch a snap.
Find out who knows your parents
The old-fashioned method of getting to know your parents’ friends and neighbors is nothing less than a life-saver. Introduce yourself. Exchange contact information. Make sure your parents’ trusted and closest neighbor has 24-hour access to getting into your parents’ house in an emergency.
Make a list
Decide what kind of specific help you need and write it down. If anyone ever says to you, “What can I do?” let them pick from your list. Update your list regularly since your needs and the needs of your aging parents will certainly change. If you have family members who are reluctant to help, ask them to contribute financially as a way to be of assistance; then you decide how to make the best use of the money.
Identify a network of professionals
Eldercare services are a telephone call away. Visiting nurses, geriatric case managers, transportation providers, professional shoppers, bookkeepers, grooming professionals, legal and financial advisors and others are members of a growing network of professionals who make house calls.