When eldercare comes knocking on the door, many people run in the opposite direction; but not you. Whether you assumed the job, sought it, or inherited the responsibility out of obligation, even guilt, chances are you accepted—willingly or otherwise—your role as family caregiver.
You don’t need 24/7 involvement to be considered a caregiver. Whether you live under the same roof or are picking up the phone and checking in every now and then, when there are older people in your life, and you’ve increased the amount of attention you give them, and you’re starting to be more concerned, you are a caregiver.
The caregiving journey takes you to places unimaginable, and in the process, you learn more about yourself than ever before. Each day has the potential to bring to the surface life-altering issues and events offering you the opportunity to develop skills and talents you never knew you had—resourcefulness, stamina, flexibility, and faith, to name a few.
You won’t come away from the caregiving experience the same as when you started, nor will you look at life, and death, in the way you did before.
There are no blueprints.
There are no road maps in family caregiving, and so I offer the following self-assessment questionnaire to guide you. If anything, the answers to these questions will reveal when it’s time for you to supplement your care plans:
Do you get along with your elders, and have a fair amount of influence over them?
Perhaps at times your sister gets along with Mom better than you do. People outside the family circle or an “authority figure” may be more influential and able to accomplish what you cannot – it might be a doctor or a member of the clergy.
Do you live far away?
Be realistic about your ability to handle eldercare details from a distance. Is it realistic right now for you to pick up and move or ask your elder to do the same? Can you share duties with someone who lives closer?
Are you willing to ask for and accept help?
There is no getting around this one. If you have trouble delegating tasks or accepting help from others, then it’s simply a matter of time before the quality of your own life will begin to crumble.
Do you have strong problem-solving abilities?
Day-to-day eldercare problems are complex, multi-dimensional and sure to challenge the brightest of minds. Surround yourself with professional advisors.
Are you good at learning new things and taking advice?
Everybody — from health care professionals to the neighbor down the street — will have a strong opinion on how your elder should be cared for. While some of their suggestions may be off target, others may be worth considering. How flexible and open-minded are you?
Are you a walking time bomb?
Is your life already filled to the brim? Are you currently handling other major obligations – job? children? How much time can you afford to devote to your elders?
Are you thick-skinned?
Disappointment, loneliness and frustration come with the job of caregiving. Your circle of friends may start to shrink; siblings will find excuses to not help. Are you good at deflecting criticism?
Are you an effective money manager?
Eldercare is a bottomless pit of ongoing expenses — housing, special diets, medications, transportation, and more. Will you seek financial advice? Are you willing to talk with other family members about contributing funds for long-term care?
Must you quit your job to perform eldercare duties?
Most people cannot afford to give up their own primary means of support. If your employer offers work-life benefits are you making good use of them now?
Once you know where the caregiving roller coaster is going, are you still in for the ride?