According to National Institute on Aging, November is National Long-term Care Awareness Month and most long-term care is provided at home by friends and family. Taking care of a loved one can be tough at times but it is also a rewarding task.
As we age, we will tend to need a little more help with everyday tasks. Eventually some people will find themselves being cared for by a close friend or family member. For many elders, the transition from an authority figure to a more subordinate role is a difficult one. The shift in power can oftentimes be a big adjustment for all that are involved.
1. Establish Norms
Expect that there will be a lot of give and take on new household norms- discuss expectations and share non-negotiable and flexible rules (smoking, cleaning, groceries, bills, etc.) It takes time to adjust to the new family dynamic.
As a parent, child, roommate, or significant other, we all have a shared household with others. There is always a period where the parties had to establish the new norms of the home. Determining who cooked or cleaned, whether certain items were off limits to the other, how to approach certain situations and establishing pet policies.
There is a time during the initial days or weeks after a loved one comes into a caretaker’s home and everyone is on there best behavior. Caretakers are always there to help and are aware of the needs and desires of the loved one. The loved ones being cared for are slowly learning the boundaries of the household that have been introduced to and hoping to not disrupt the established family atmosphere. During this time, the caretaker and the loved one are learning the ins and outs of their roommate arrangement. Both are making determinations on the care needed and of boundaries that they will establish. After the first few weeks, the parties will become familiar with each other’s habits and roles and are more comfortable in their surroundings.
2. Recognize Time Commitments
Be honest with yourself about how much time taking care of a loved one will impose. If you need help, contact other family members for support or hire extra help if you can.
Many caretakers will underestimate the extent of the time that is needed to successfully manage another adults care. Be realistic about the amount of time and effort required for the task. Of course, the seriousness of the loved one’s need for care will impact these time-related responsibilities.
Time- related questions that a caretaker must ask themselves include: How will my loved on get to a doctor appointment? Can I continue to work? Can they be left alone? Do they have the capacity to make an emergency call if needed? Will I need to learn any special medical skills for their care? Do I have the strength to assist the loved one in or out of the shower? What would I do to help them if they fall? Can they safely get downstairs to do their own laundry? The answers to these questions will help determine the caretakers required time commitment.
3. Prepare for the Future
It is important for caretakers to develop a plan of action for the care of their loved one and how long they may stay. Is the arrangement permanent? Is the placement a medium between independent living and an assisted living or a nursing facility? Is the goal for the loved one to manage their own care in order to help them regain independence? The bounds of the relationship are an important part of taking on the care of another. It may seem obvious, yet there is often a gap between the expectations of the parties.
Whether there is a plan for the loved one to regain independence or to bridge between independence and formal care, work toward the goal. It is important to prepare the loved one for self-care techniques and to get medical conditions under control, making plans for budgeting for life expenses after they move out or cover the details for their permanent stay.
Even though the loved one may move back into the world once they are able to regain strength or overcome an illness, but a caretaker may expect that they will stay forever. Caretakers may be hesitant to permit reentry into independent living because they fear that the loved one will fall back into unhealthy or dangerous situations.
4. Take Time for Yourselves
We all need a little me time from now and then, so don’t be afraid to take a night off. Taking a break will provide a respite for caretakers but also for a loved one. Don’t forget that a loved one’s friends may like to visit or go out for a meal. Many communities also provide options for respite care, as well Senior centers have plenty of fun activities to choose from.
Alone time may become a commodity when caretakers bring loved ones into their homes. Many times, when they move to a caretaker’s home the loved one loses the social community they once enjoyed where they had previously lived. Even more both lose the uninhibited privacy that separate living once provided.
During the holiday season with family and friends gathering, it may be apparent that long-term care is needed for a loved one. Being a caretaker can be rewarding experience and can foster a cherished relationship between loved one and caretaker. Grandkids can get to know their elders better and these close bonds can provide life-long joy and support. While great consideration should be given towards long-term care options, it is often left to family and friends to provide the care and elder needs. The above tips, the in-home long-term care arrangement should make for a successful and enjoyable relationship.