Every day in the United States, around 10,000 different seniors turn 65 years old. Most of them are hoping to age in the comfort of their own homes, as opposed to falling back on an assisted living facility. While this isn’t always an option, adult children and caregivers may choose to care for their aging adults at home. And as long as this is done safely and responsibly, with the whole family involved, it can be a truly wonderful thing.
If you’re considering the prospect of caring for a senior at home, you’re going to need more than simple elderly care tips on the internet. It’s very important to recognize that things like senior and dementia care are some of the most difficult and stressful jobs you could ever have. Because of this, caregivers are at high risk for burnout and serious health conditions.
So as you explore elderly care tips and ideas, remember to pace yourself. You cannot run at one hundred percent all the time and expect to be healthy (or happy). Caring for your older adult must mean caring for yourself, too. That can mean involving other family members, investing in at-home health systems, and even getting home health aide assistance now and then. Some of these things might even be covered by the senior’s insurance, but you must be sure the family is on board with your decision before you take on the challenge.
To that end, the following elderly care tips can help you get started caring for your senior at home.
Understand How Much Care is Required
Depending on their level of personal independence, seniors can require a lot of care — you can’t simply leave them in their wooden rocker to fend for themselves. When it comes to caregiving, many people fall into the trap of “not seeing the forest for the trees.” There are just so many items on the todo list each day that it’s easy to miss the overall picture.
As such, the item on our list of elderly care tips is to accurately determine just how much care your older adult requires to be happy and comfortable.
To start figuring this out, try creating a list of monthly, weekly, and daily care tasks. This will help you get a feel for how much help your senior will need on weekends, during the day, and at night. Different levels and types of supervision will be required at different times, and it’s important to be clear on what the picture will look like.
A convenient way to make a list like this is to set out a notepad and take a quick note every time someone helps your older adult in some way. After just one week, you’ll come away with a good overview of what needs your senior has, and when they need the most help. To ensure you haven’t missed something, you should consider continuing this note-taking for as long as a month. This will help you discover those things that only happen once or twice a month, such as doctors or dental care appointments.
Be Realistic About How Much You Can Give
Knowing your older adult’s care needs are the first step, but now you must determine if that’s all something you can handle on your own. As you look over the list of tasks your senior needs help with, you may realize that for many of them, you need help yourself.
In this section of our elderly care tips, it’s critical to consider what your own health and happiness needs are. If you take on too much, you will eventually burn yourself out, and you may even develop a serious health condition. Not only would this be very bad for you, but it would also make you unable to help care for anyone else.
No matter how confident you are in your caregiving abilities and no matter how much free time you have, you’re definitely going to need help with certain tasks at certain times. Before moving on the the next step, define what those tasks are that would probably be too much for you if you took them on.
Get Help with Caregiving
Although it may feel like finding help with caregiving takes too much time and effort, you can be sure that it’s an investment that will pay off in the future. Finding help will take patience and creative thinking on your part, but it will be worth it when you’re allowed to decrease your workload, relieve stress, and enjoy regular breaks.
Keeping an open mind and remaining flexible can help you spot unexpected opportunities to get help. The list you wrote down of all ways your older adult needs help will inform your search.
Consider the following ideas for getting caregiving help:
- Enroll your senior in an adult day program. Besides offering a chance for some much-needed rest for you, it will provide them with a chance to socialize and experience a new environment.
- Hire in-home care so that you can get regular breaks. Home health aides are caring, intelligent people who can give your loved one their full attention while you’re taking time away.
- Find a volunteer senior companion program in your area. Lots of people volunteer their time and attention to help keep seniors company.
- Rely on a respite care service to get a longer break if you need more than a day away. Your local health service may offer such a program.
- Sign up your older adult for a meal delivery service or Meals on Wheels. That way you can get away with preparing fewer meals for them every day.
- Ask a family member or close friend to help you run errands, prepare some meals, or do some light cleaning. We’ll talk more about getting family members to help later.
- Buy caregiving and household supplies in bulk quantities so you don’t have to visit the store as often. Better yet, consider ordering online with at-home delivery. Try to eliminate as many errands as you can to conserve time and energy.
Share the Responsibility of Caregiving
The downside of doing a great job caring for an elderly relative is that other family members may feel like you don’t need any help. It’s not that they wouldn’t help if you asked them — it simply looks like you’ve always got it covered.
Because of that, you should make it a point to ask siblings or relatives to take on their share of responsibility. This way you can take much-needed breaks without relying on a stranger to care for your older adult on their own.
Getting assistance from family members will be different in every situation. It could mean having your senior live with a sibling for one year, or for two months at a time. In other cases, it might mean having a relative stay in your home for a few days while you retreat to a place where you can rest.
Sometimes it may feel like you need a family law attorney just to get any help out of your relatives, but be patient. They may be more willing to pitch in than you think. Be creative and flexible when discussing ways they can help. Every outcome is a win if it helps lessen the workload for you.
The first step in getting help from family members is to ask yourself what you would like them to do for you, specifically. Obviously you want more than elderly care tips or advice, but can you articulate the help you would like to have?
Many caregivers feel used and put-upon by their families, yet they find themselves turning down help if it’s offered. If you’ve ever rejected help when it was offered, ask yourself why that was. Chances are, you weren’t sure what to ask for, and it was simpler to simply say no than to figure it out on the spot.
Maybe you only want help at particular times, or even just once in a while. Perhaps you’d like your siblings to help pay for respite care or health services, especially if your senior’s insurance doesn’t cover things like dentures or at-home help. It’s important to clarify what you need help with, or you could end up sending mixed messages.
When you ask for help, remember to ask directly, clearly, and for something specific. For example, saying “Would you stay with Dad every Thursday?” is much more effective than “Can you help out a little more?”
When you ask for help, remember to make a request for something realistic. Consider the relationship the person has to your older adult — if they never talk or the relationship is strained, you might get them to bring groceries by, but you shouldn’t ask them to sit with your senior while you’re away.
Get the Emotional Support You Need
Elderly people often feel lonely and unwanted, almost as if people are more interested when they go to the funeral home than when they’re still alive and well at home. Keeping your older adult company is no doubt one reason you’re there for them, but sadly that loneliness tends to cross over and affect caregivers, too. Taking care of a senior can be isolating, leaving many selfless caregivers feeling unappreciated.
This is why personal care is just as important elderly care tips. Besides needing practical help from friends and family now and then, you must make sure you get your emotional needs met. If hearing from your family members would help, ask them to call once every week or two. Let them know that it would really help just for you to know that they recognize and appreciate what you’re doing.
Perhaps more than anything, it’s important for you to stay out of the cycle of guilt and anger, which is all too common for caregivers. You might feel angry and resentful towards other family members because of all the work you do, but you probably feel guilty at the same time for feeling that way. Recognize that this is normal, and take steps to reconnect with your family regularly so that these feelings have a chance to dissipate. And when you ask for help, remember to do it in a way that doesn’t make your siblings or family members feel guilty. It’s tempting, but you’ll only feel worse afterwards. They probably feel bad for you as it is, and would be eager to help out as soon as you tell them how they can.
Know When to Get Help from Outside the Family
Elderly care tips will only get you so far when you’re dealing with multiple family members. Just like you get a good lawyer when you need to make a court case, there are times when you need to fall back on professional services for caregiving.
Caring for parents and loved ones can often result in experiences that are emotional and stressful for every individual involved. Families have long and complicated histories, with layers upon layers of uncertain memories and unresolved traumas. This combination can make communicating with one another very difficult — it’s just too easy for everyone to misinterpret, overreact, and bring old fights and resentments back to the surface.
If you find that family discussions are constantly spiraling into endless fights, and important decisions just aren’t being made because of it, it may be time to turn to professional help. Beyond effective communication and elderly care tips, you need an expert to actually work with you in person to help everyone come to useful conclusions in a safe, healthy way. Family therapists, social workers, elder mediators, and geriatric care managers can all fill this role for your family. If you have a pastor or other faith worker whom you all trust and respect, you could also rely on them to help you through difficult conversions.
Reduce Financial Pressure
All the financial advice and elderly care tips in the world won’t pay the bills. If caring for your older adult is placing a severe financial burden on your family, simply finding ways to mitigate costs could mean the difference between being stressed out and feeling relaxed and cheerful.
To help with that, there are government and private benefits programs that can help with a variety of costs related to senior care. If you talk to your social worker, they should be able to recommend some services for you.
Elderly care tips don’t always make the job seem easier, but hopefully these have helped you feel more confident and optimistic in your ability to care for your loved one at home.