As relatives and loved ones get older, it feels natural to step into a more nurturing role. You might want to assist them with day-to-day chores, such as preparing meals or doing a little DIY, for example. Similarly, you might be keen to offer emotional support or want to spend more time with them to ensure they don’t feel lonely.
However, many seniors require an increasing amount of help as they get older, and becoming a caregiver isn’t something to do lightly. If you’re unsure how to look after an older relative or you’re deciding how to provide the help a loved one needs, take a look at these five things to consider before deciding to become a full-time caregiver:
1. What Type of Help is Needed?
People need varying levels of assistance as they get older, so it’s important to assess your relative’s needs before you decide how you can help them. If someone is recovering from surgery and requires temporary support or respite care, for example, this may be easier to arrange than providing long-term care as a sole caregiver.
Similarly, an older relative might be in need of companionship but remain relatively independent in terms of looking after themselves and completing everyday tasks. For seniors with mobility issues, however, additional practical help may be needed. Alternatively, older people with memory issues or dementia might require round-the-clock care if their condition progresses.
By assessing what type of help is needed at the outset, you can make an informed decision about whether you’re able to provide the assistance that’s required. Furthermore, you’ll be able to ensure that any solutions put in place are sufficient to provide the care and support your loved one needs and deserves.
2. Can Your Relative Live Independently?
Although many seniors are adamant about living independently, it isn’t always a realistic option. If mobility or health issues affect an individual’s ability to get around safely, for example, living independently could become hazardous. Furthermore, some seniors worry about security and safety issues as they get older, particularly if they live alone or far away from relatives.
As a caregiver, your relative’s living arrangements might be one of the first things you need to address. If they’re unable to live alone, for example, you may want to ask them to move into your home with you. However, if you’re regularly out of the house for long periods of time, at work, for example, moving an older relative into your home won’t necessarily ensure they have the support they need.
Fortunately, retirement communities, like Brandywine Senior Living, can provide a safe living environment for older people. With access to practical and medical assistance, seniors can request as much as help as they need, while a range of facilities and entertainment provides much-needed fun and excitement.
3. How Will Your Other Responsibilities Be Affected?
Being a caregiver is challenging but it can be particularly difficult if you have a range of other responsibilities to fulfill. If you work on a full or part-time basis or are caring for a young family, for example, you’ll need to determine how you can balance any additional responsibilities you take on. No matter how much you want to care for an older relative, it’s vital to ensure that you can dedicate the time and resources required.
For some people, giving up work or reducing their hours is a viable option but this isn’t something everyone is able to do. Similarly, if you work from home or run your own business, you’ll need to assess how you can provide care while continuing to be productive.
Taking a practical approach to the issue can help you to make realistic decisions about what type of care is best for your loved ones. While it’s easy to let emotions cloud your judgment, seniors can suffer when their needs aren’t prioritized, or caregivers simply have too many responsibilities.
4. Does Your Relative Want Help and Support?
For many people, one of the most difficult aspects of stepping into a caregiving role is persuading the individual that they do actually need help and support! Seniors often maintain that they’re able to cope alone and that they don’t require assistance from relatives or professional caregivers. However, their confidence might be misplaced if there is evidence that they aren’t able to manage without help.
While you can’t force someone to accept help, you can gently persuade older relatives to accept more assistance. Asking them what type of help they’d like, involving them in decision-making, and enabling them to have as much independence as possible can be a good way to begin introducing the topic of accessing more help, for example.
5. What Does the Future Hold?
When you’re deciding how to provide help to an older relative, consider their current needs but take the time to assess what the future might hold as well. We tend to require more assistance as we age, which means your responsibilities as a caregiver might increase in the upcoming months or years. While an older relative might be able to live independently now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll be able to do so in six months or six years’ time.
Having a plan in place and talking to your relatives about their wishes in advance can give you an insight into how they’d like to be cared for in the future. Not only will this give them control over their own lives, but it will also give you an understanding of how to deliver the best level of care to your loved ones.
Caring for Seniors and Elderly Relatives
Caring for a loved one as they get older can be a rewarding experience but it’s often challenging and demanding too. From providing practical support and companionship to offering physical and healthcare assistance, there are many aspects to being a caregiver. By taking the time to fully assess what’s required and talking to your relatives, you can implement a care plan that ensures they have the help and care they need at all times.