There are lots of reasons why you might become a caregiver. If you intend to help an elderly loved one who can’t live on their own any longer or someone you know who has had an accident and needs daily assistance, there are things you need to know before you get started. Here, we’ll talk about some of the most common caregiver duties, as well as challenges and rewards of the job.
Being a caregiver is a popular job. There are over 43 million unpaid caregivers in the U.S., which means there are a lot of family members who give their loved one’s assistance on a daily basis. In addition to these family providers, there is clinical staff who provide care in a healthcare setting as either in-home care or assisted living or as part of a long-term care plan at a residential facility.
Regardless of who is assisting, there are four main areas that help is most often required.
Activities of Daily Life
Most often, loved ones who need additional care have mobility, memory, or other aging-related issues. This can make activities of daily life that we take for granted challenging. If you’re providing care to a parent or spouse, be prepared to help with things like bathing, grooming, and other personal care activities.
Things that seem as simple as getting out of bed, getting dressed, or using the restroom may require your assistance.
There are six defined activities of daily living, and if your loved one isn’t able to complete some of them, you may qualify for financial help from an insurance plan.
Keeping a home neat and tidy might not seem like something a caregiver would be responsible for, but it’s a crucial step in maintaining a healthy lifestyle for a senior. Light housekeeping like doing laundry, dishes, vacuuming floors, and disinfecting surfaces will not only keep the home free of clutter and make it easier to move around, but it will also eliminate germs and help prevent bacteria that cause sickness from entering the home.
Eating balanced, nutritious meals is one key component to aging well. Caregivers typically prepare meals to ensure that their loved one is eating a variety of foods throughout the day. If you’re a full-time caregiver and live with your charge, try to include them in the daily meals with your family. If you’re at their home part-time, cook meals for the rest of the day so that they are ready to heat and eat and leave a reminder about what to do at mealtimes.
There is a relationship between loneliness and health decline among seniors. That’s why having a caregiver who offers companionship is so important. By taking the time to have a conversation, read a book or help them write a letter, you’re providing loads of mental and psychological benefits to your companion.
Being a caregiver isn’t without challenges. Here are four things that you may not know you’ll need to be prepared to face.
Even though there are millions of people who give care to their loved ones every day, it can still be a lonely job. It’s not easy to be responsible for both someone’s quantity and quality of life, and other friends and family members may not understand some of the challenges and frustrations you deal with on a daily basis. Connecting with a group of like-minded people who can relate to your struggles can be a key component in maintaining your own health and happiness through the journey.
Making Hard Choices
If you are caring for a family member and have the power to make their medical and end of life decisions for them, you’ll be faced with some hard choices along the way. Deciding whether or not to allow treatments, procedures, and hospitalizations can be tricky, particularly if your loved one isn’t coherent enough to express their wishes. If possible, talk with your loved one ahead of time so that you’re confident you know what they want if and when the time comes to help put your mind at ease.
When things, like assisting with bathing and using the toilet, are among your daily to-do items, there are bound to be some uncomfortable moments along the way. Many older adults struggle with their declining state, and may not be comfortable asking for help. This can lead to accidents that are embarrassing for both of you. Sometimes, just knowing that these moments are inevitable and there is no need to feel guilty or ashamed is enough to allow you to smile, shake them off, and move forward.
Taking a Break
While being a caregiver means you get to contribute to the health and wellbeing of your loved one, it can take a toll on you. For that reason, it’s crucial to schedule regular breaks where you can rest, relax, and recuperate your physical and mental health. Consider hiring an outside professional for caregiver duties or using an adult day care service in your area to ensure your loved one is well cared for when you take some time away to recharge.
While the challenges above may have you intimidated, know that caregiving isn’t always challenging. In fact, 83% of surveyed caregivers report that it is an overall rewarding experience.
Some of the things you have to look forward to are the pleasure of giving back to someone who catered for you, and the satisfaction of knowing that they are getting the highest level of care available. No one will look after your loved one the way you are able to.
Additionally, caregivers reported experiencing personal growth and developing a deeper purpose in their own lives as a result of their service.