As family members grow older, many will begin to need help in certain areas. It may be managing finances, or meds. They may have trouble with routine home tasks like cooking, cleaning, or laundry. Some may find doctor’s visits increasingly confusing, and need someone with them to help interpret and implement any suggestions.
Some may need no help at all. In addition, when and how much they need help and on what is very unique for each individual. So families need to be attentive and watchful, and be willing to discuss help with their loved one as the need arises.
A common first step in bolstering care is usually for loved ones to step up and become a primary caregiver(s) with important things (like finances) or infrequent things (like doctor’s visits). This has numerous benefits, such as keeping the senior calm and happy around people they know and ensuring that the family stays informed about the progression of the aging person’s condition.
However, caregivers can be prone to burnout, creating physical ailments, mental and emotional strain, fatigue, loss of connection with other family members, and even resentment. This is not a failing on the part of the caregiver; rather, it is an indication that the caregiver is not receiving the support they need.
Here are a few of the most important resources and support networks for caregivers so that you or a family member can avoid caregiver burnout before it occurs or rejuvenate yourself as you care for your aging family member.
Many caregivers are uncomfortable sharing the emotional and mental toll that caring for a family member can have. They feel ashamed that someone they love is the source of suffering or frustration, but bottling up these feelings can only make them worse.
Dedicated caregiver support groups provide a place where similar individuals can share their struggles and their means of coping. SCNOVA offers such a program, which participants find invaluable for support, sharing, and ideas.
In the worst cases, where caregiving is causing notable challenges like depression, there are trained psychology or therapy professionals with experience in caregiving matters who can also be consulted.
Financial and Legal Counseling
When a loved one cannot manage their own affairs anymore, the family may attempt to pick up where they left off. Dementia and other gradually progressive cognitive conditions are some of the most common reasons why families take over the legal and financial matters of their aging loved ones.
However, doing this correctly requires special care; otherwise, a family could believe that they have properly created or changed a will only for it to fail to stand up in court. Most will need assistance with powers of attorney, asset management, and inheritance or trust issues, and low-cost or free counseling resources may be available in your area.
A good approach here is to start with a certified Care Manager to provide advice and counsel, and often a professional Elder Care attorney and/or financial planning professional to discuss your loved one and recommend a plan for his/her and the family’s consideration to best provide for their needs.
Adult Day Care
For older folks who can still get out of the home comfortably, adult day care is one of the safest places they can be. This provides the opportunity to socialize with others in their peer group, participate in activities, and enjoy meals with friends.
At the same time, the caregivers receive some rest from the responsibilities of caring during the day, and they can know that their loved one is safe and properly supervised. Most daycares will also take charge of important senior-related matters such as keeping to medication schedules or providing safe exercise.
Your loved one may initially resist this, but most love it after the first day. (These programs are usually offered on an ability-to-pay basis).
As people age, their bodies may begin to need a specialized diet that caters to any illnesses or challenges that they are facing. They may also begin to have difficulty preparing meals. Nutrition, including enough liquids, is a recurring problem.
Nutrition programs can help. Options like Meals on Wheels or in-person luncheons offer food to older individuals to ensure they are receiving the nutrition they need. Most Adult Day Care programs offer one or more meals a day.
In-Home Care Programs
Often, Respite Care for the caregiver is a great place to start. There are programs that can provide a day or two off for caregivers by filling in for them, or other family members can provide the respite for the primary caregiver.
At times, family member caregivers do not have the experience, medical knowledge, or physical ability to perform challenging tasks such as wheelchair transfer or blood pressure monitoring. Relying on in-home care programs can be a godsend for many families.
In these scenarios, a professional can visit the home and take over some or most of the caregiving responsibilities, freeing caregivers to have time to themselves. At-home care can be short— using 3-4 hours per visit on a scheduled basis — or more in-depth, with more and/or longer days during the typical week.
In-home programs are available for both standard non-specialized care (like cooking, cleaning, and companionship) and medically specialized nursing care, depending on the senior’s needs.
One of the biggest stress factors families face with aging adults is that the senior wants to continue to be independent, but it is no longer safe or feasible for them to leave the home. Taking away the keys is a big problem as it seems like denying someone their freedom, yet it can be essential for some in preserving their safety.
Transportation programs can ensure that your loved one gets to where they need to be safely without getting lost or needing to operate a vehicle on their own. Some can be scheduled ahead of time, and others show up at scheduled times throughout the day.
This removes the challenge of family members making time to shuttle their aging loved one around when they have other tasks that also need attention.
If your loved one needs help with transportation, there are usually a range of options available in every area. Investigate free or low-cost transportation in your area by searching online or contacting your County’s Social Services Department.
Connect With Valuable Resources with SCNOVA
Being a caregiver for an aging individual is no small feat, and caregivers need support, too. In this situation, you may not know where to look for help. The Shepherd’s Center of Northern Virginia assists families in understanding the resources available in their area so that older folks can age happily in place for as long as possible.