Taking Responsibility: Caregiving Tips for Loved Ones
Becoming a caretaker can be overwhelming. While there’s no one-size-fits-all plan for approaching one of life’s biggest changes, there are some helpful basics to consider.
Prepare, If Possible
Ideally, a family has an action plan in place, and can take gradual steps toward caring for a loved one - or at least be ready when the time comes.
But too often, trauma leads to sudden responsibility. A stroke, a fall, an unsuccessful surgery, can propel families into forced, stressful and very emotional decision making.
If you are able, decide in advance:
WHO will be the primary caretaker of the loved one? WHERE will the person being cared for live if they require 24 hour assistance? WHAT logistical preparations need to be made to make for a smoother transition?
This doesn’t need to be the end of a meaningful relationship with a loved one. If you can view this change as a next step, instead of a dooming sentence, you’ll avoid feeling guilty for things outside of your control, and prevent yourself from overstepping into areas where your loved one is still entirely capable.
As much as you can:
INVOLVE your loved one in decisions about their own care. DEFINE your role as their caretaker so that expectations are clear and realistic up front. Which decisions do you need to make now on their behalf and which do you not? Your father’s injured hip doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have full faculty to continue managing his own finances. Your grandmother’s lapsing memory doesn’t mean that she doesn’t still have tastes and preferences about television, books or other activities that are healthy and helpful.
Similarly, you sharing your home in a new way, does not mean that you should feel put out of your own living space. Discuss these things up front, and patiently as they arise.
Treat your loved one with DIGNITY and RESPECT. This person who was once autonomous and independent, is now in a humbled state or dependence, which is incredibly difficult and sensitive for them. Sure, some are better at receiving help than others, and some show more appreciation than others. Keep in mind that it’s a major change for them as well.
Ask for Help
Support is absolutely key. Know what you are capable of, and when you need to enlist help. Do you have willing and available siblings? Means to hire a nurse? Share the responsibility. This will help you remain emotionally healthy during the next stage of relationship with your loved one.