Eldercare: A Family Caregiver Role
I have written a lot about eldercare, but it is so prevalent today, where the estimates are that about 50 million care for elders in the US and this number is growing phenomenally. We need to know what it entails, plan for it, and balance it with our other roles, while maintaining our own health.
National Alliance on Caregiving, the state of Nevada has more than onehalf million informal caregivers, and the value of informal caregiving in Nevada is said to be roughly $4 billion annually. In addition, nearly half of family caregivers are caring for someone who lives in his or her own home, while an additional one-third are sharing a home with the loved one. Some are caring for a spouse or partner, many for a parent — all working to help that person stay at home for as long and as comfortably as possible. The caregiving role may be simply checking in on the elder to assisting them with everything from bathing and meal prep to medication management.
It’s important to think both short term tasks and needs and long-term issues that require planning. You cannot anticipate everything, but being forward- thinking now will help you respond more quickly and effectively in an emergency. We cannot do this caregiving role alone. Reach out to form a “team” of family, friends and others who can help you and the care recipient.
So, in forming a team, what needs to be done? First, identify who can participate. Second, be open and honest with yourself. If you are uncomfortable with hands-on caregiving tasks, such as helping a loved one bathe, ask if another team member can step in. Or discuss whether there is money available to hire assistance. Really think about what you can and cannot do. Talk to the team members about tasks and find consensus. Third, communicate with the team members and determine what they’re willing to do to contribute to the care. Even if they live out of town, they can handle jobs like paying bills, ordering prescriptions and scheduling medical appointments. Fourth, work with the team on a plan, and if possible always include the care recipient. The plan needs to be agreed upon by all parties and if valuable, put in writing. Be aware that it will constantly change, so review the plan regularly.
Caregivers may need help with basic care. The areas in which caregivers most frequently seek information include keeping their loved one safe at home, managing their own stress, identifying easy activities to do with care recipients, finding time for themselves, balancing work and family, talking to doctors and other healthcare professionals, making end-of life decisions, and managing challenging behaviors among many other areas. Many services in the community can help with obtaining information. One invaluable new resource available to Washoe County created by the Community Foundation of Western Nevada is the Washoe Caregivers Guidebook. Go to www.WashoeCaregivers.org or call the Foundation for a printed copy.