Becoming an informal caregiver isn’t always something most people plan ahead for. Right now there are more than 34.2 million Americans providing unpaid care for a person at least 50 years or older, with 15.7 million caring for adults with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. This can mean spending time in a loved one’s home, or even having them move in, yet it is certain that caregiving can quickly become a full-time position for many people.
Whatever the case may be, acting as your loved one’s caregiver is an immense responsibility that usually requires a relatively significant amount of money spent each month. According to the AARP Public Policy Institute, informal caregivers provided services to their loved ones of an estimated value of $470 billion. Learning how to balance your work, life, and caregiving is key to making sure you’re being as effective in all of your roles as possible.
Informal Caregiver: Plan Ahead for All Appointments
As an informal caregiver, your services only go so far, making regular doctors visits a large part of you and your loved one’s schedule. And while it can be cumbersome at times to make constant trips to specialists, it’s important that you always prepare to make each appointment as effective as possible. This can include:
• Preparing relevant information to discuss with doctors
• Keeping a medication log to help with understanding any side effects
• Planning transportation
• Talking with your loved one beforehand to understand their concerns or questions
Seek Support from Family
No one should ever feel like they’re acting as an informal caregiver all on their own. Although it’s not always an easy situation to deal with, seeking support from additional family members is one way to really spread responsibilities and reduce your own stress. That said, it’s important that those who are providing assistance be fully aware of what they’re actually in charge of. It would be a step backward to shift responsibilities to family members who aren’t as capable. Yet even if they aren’t involved with direct care, it could be beneficial to ask for help with covering costs, cooking meals, or just help around the house when necessary.
Keep Healthy Emotions
This is just as important for you as it is your loved one. Becoming an informal caregiver and receiving care can expose some unpleasantries when it comes to our own relationships and mortal existence — but don’t give in to the negativity that may be present! It’s important to keep a healthy emotional perspective on the caregiver-receiver relationship, but you’ll need to discover what that is for you and your loved one. Even if emotional solutions aren’t obvious or readily admitted, an honest discussion of your thoughts and feelings can go a long way.
Take Care of Yourself
Maybe you’re the only person available to care for your loved one — and we commend you! That doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your own wellbeing to make a difference in the life of your senior loved one. If this means hiring another caregiver every so often, then go for it! If not, it may just come down to getting consistent sleep, eating right, and finding those moments where you can be calm — despite what might be a stressful situation. It’s pretty hard to take care of someone else if you don’t have any time to stay healthy yourself, so consider you and your loved one’s care one and the same!
Reassess your Loved One’s Condition
Hopefully, acting as an informal caregiver isn’t taking a huge toll on you and your loved one’s overall wellbeing — yet not everyone is so lucky. At the end of the day, it’s about whether you’re able to provide the right amount of care to meet the needs of someone who depends on you. If you feel like working as a caregiver isn’t ideal, it can be helpful to consider what other senior living options are available. It may seem like an overwhelming task to find your loved one a new arrangement, but we’ll assist you every step of the way.