The path we follow as we age is far from straight. Instead, we are often faced with many obstacles and must adapt as we go. When you become a caregiver for a loved one, your role, and potentially the essence of your relationship with your loved one, can shift. For some adults, the role of becoming a caregiver is one that can be predicted months or even years in advance. For example, adults with parents diagnosed with Alzheimer’s can expect for their health to deteriorate over time and may have to have a more active role in their parents’ everyday lives. For other people, however, an accident, stroke, or other unexpected injury can leave adults thrust into the role of caregiver far sooner than expected – if they even expected to be one at all.
Below are some obstacles you might face as a caregiver and suggestions how you can work through them.
Paying Bills and Managing Finances
If your parent or loved one was the person primarily in charge of the bills and finances in your/their family, an injury or accident could be an impairment on their ability to continue doing so. If you don’t believe you have the time or expertise to take over the duty of managing the bills, consider hiring a financial planner or someone else to take care of it for you. In some cases, or if you are caring for someone who might not be able to do their finances permanently, you should look into any legal action that you may need to take before being able to handle the bills yourself, such as power of attorney.
Overall, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Finances are an important part of your loved one’s future, so make sure to take any necessary steps to make sure you talk about a solution that is manageable for both of you.
No matter what your physical or mental state of mind may be, remembering to take medication every day is something that can easily be forgotten. Amid the struggle of remembering to take your own meds, adding a loved one’s medication to keep track of can seem like a recipe for disaster.
One solution is to make use of weekly pill boxes. Set up a system where you organize your family member’s pills at the start of the week. By organizing their weekly pills, you won’t have to hassle trying to figure out which meds your family member should be taking each day.
In addition to pill boxes, utilize the alarm or reminders app on your smartphone. If you think your family member will easily forget to take their medication, consider setting a consistent alarm/reminder to keep them on top of their medical needs.
If you are a caregiver for a parent and they are in assisted living or a senior center, see if a service is offered within the community where a nurse or aid can come remind them to take their medication every day. At the assisted living home where my grandparents live, my mom became overwhelmed with reminding my grandmother to take her medication, so we enlisted the help of a nurse. The nurse now comes every morning to ensure my grandmother takes her pills, and the nurse organizes the pills for her at the beginning of every week.
Assisting with Physical Therapy
Physical therapy has many proven benefits, such as improved balance, fall prevention, and recoveries from injuries like falls or strokes. If your loved one has suffered from an injury, or even if you are simply caring for someone of an old age, participating in regular low-impact exercises and daily stretches will most likely be a part of the recommended care routine.
However, like remembering to take medication every day, continuing to maintain an at-home physical therapy practice can be extremely difficult. Help your loved ones remember to stretch and do their exercises everyday by setting reminders on their smartphone or writing a daily reminder for them on paper where they will see it.
Providing Emotional Support
Perhaps one of the greatest services you can give to your relative is to be present for them emotionally. Make sure to always listen to them when they are struggling and show them you are fully invested in their well-being. While taking on the caregiver role can be stressful, try your best to remain calm and patient. Everyone has a different way of handling emotions, so try to be understanding if your loved one is particularly closed-off or somber.
While you may feel like being a caregiver is your responsibility, you don’t have to do it alone. Whether you recruit help from your siblings or professional services, such as private transportation or a nurse, you have no shortage of people willing to help you stay afloat.
Don’t hesitate to research resources in your community and care facilities near you. The role of a caregiver is no easy feat, and you shouldn’t feel guilty or ashamed for asking for help. While being a caregiver can be stressful, don’t forget to make time for yourself and give yourself credit where credit is due! By taking time to care for yourself as well as your loved one, you’ll be able to give both of you the love and time you deserve.
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