I had not thought about writing on this topic until recent family health issues and people kept asking me what I am doing. This topic deserves a blog of its own and I will put a link here when I set it up. Let me start out by saying not everyone is cut out to be a caregiver. There is no shame if you are not. Caregiving for family is more out of love than anything but sometimes it is also out of respect for your parents or loyalty or even you may feel it is your duty. It might even fall into finances. Some people will move into their parents house and some will move into their children’s house. There is no set rule for you to follow. What you do in your family is what is good for your family. In deciding to do this you are committing to a huge commitment.
Personally, I kind of fell into doing caregiving for family. It is not what I set out to do in my life. When I started doing the caregiving I was in my late 20’s. I had two small children and lived with my husband and children in the same town as my parents and my husbands parents. That made it easier and ultimately nominated unofficially to do the caregiving.
I am by no means an expert in this field. I am sure I have made all kinds of mistakes and will continue to make mistakes due to being an amateur. It all started with me just trying to help out with things around the house for both sets of parents. Just hanging pictures or cleaning out closets etc. That graduated to going to coffee with my father-in-law then helping haul stuff away for my mother-in-law, to watering my parents yard and bringing in the mail. In the process I did get to know my in-laws and my parents better. I highly recommend it. You see as parents age they like to talk more about their life, things they did and their hopes and dreams and regrets. It actually will bring you closer to them than you ever thought. As for me, I had to learn extreme patience. This does not come easy to me and I had to learn it. Having patience is essential in your success as a caregiver.
To begin with I would suggest that you start reading anything you can on caregiving. There is no such things as to much information when dealing with caregiving. I would also suggest that you find a caregivers support group immediately. Most of us have no idea how bad off we are as caregivers until we are completely burned out.
Next I would see if your local senior center has a resource guide available. This booklet is a wealth of information for someone just starting out. When you start caregiving you are not prepared for the volume of work involved. I have a short list of things I would start with to start before your parents are not able to make decisions wisely.
1. Find an attorney that will work with you on documents and any legal things that will arise during your caregiving.
2. Make sure all siblings are onboard with you doing this and go over what you expect from each other during this time and get it in writing.
3. Get your parents to have their wills done if they have not done so.
4. Next get them to take care of their living wills and CPR directives. All of this will save you such a headache later.
5. For yourself.. find that support group.
6. Find out if your state has a program where you can get paid to take care of your parents.
7 more Steps to Take When Aging Parents Need Help
- Assess your parent’s needs.
- Think about your own needs and abilities.
- Include your parent in the process.
- Understand the financial situation.
- Take care of home safety basics.
- Make sure communication is simple and accessible.
- Explore available aging care options.