There is no perfect solution to the challenges of aging, just options. If a person’s home environment can be adapted to meet his physical needs and we find ways to sustain social connections to prevent isolation, home is where most individuals want to stay.
Many seniors move through a series of plateaus as their need for care increases. It’s important to be flexible instead of sticking with one set of solutions. Each change is an opportunity to evaluate what works and what is not working in their support network. There is no cookie cutter answer to these challenges but rather we must identify and address the underlying need. Examining the entire situation includes understanding what the caregiver can commit to. Be thoughtful and inclusive of your own needs when planning.
As a caregiver, consider what you can commit to on a long term basis. When there is a crisis, we reschedule our day-to-day responsibilities and ask our partners, friends, family and coworkers to cover for us. As you move away from crisis mode, ask yourself whether you can sustain the level of care you are providing.
Imagine visiting your mother twice a day, 2 years from now or 5 years from now. What would that be like? How would it change your life? How would you feel? The “MetLife Juggling Act Study” on the impacts of family caregiving showed that most caregivers underestimate both the amount of time caregiving takes on a daily basis and the length of time they will be providing care to a family member.
Caring for your parent at home requires a network of services to support what you and your parent. A support team of caregiving professionals will be needed if you are to provide long term care for your loved one. No caregiver can work alone indefinitely. A critical part of your self care will be taking breaks from being a caregiver.
Emergencies or illnesses may create the need for supplemental caregiving. Your loved one’s changing needs may also create the need for professional caregiving resources. If your family member does not sleep well at night or needs constant supervision his/her needs may exceed one person’s or a family’s ability to provide support.
Changes in your family member’s condition can make the need for professional help urgent. Make time before a crisis to identify services in your local area that can help and that you feel will provide good care. It can also take time after you engage professional caregivers for you to find the right match of personalities and exact services. Be prepared for possible mismatches by getting to know more than one service provider for each service you may need.
Educate yourself about community resources. Through your state’s website, you can find listings for your local Agency on Aging. The Agency on Aging is a clearing house of services available to seniors. Consider using non-traditional resources. Some services geared toward busy working professionals such as grocery deliveries, personal chefs and cleaning services also meet the needs of seniors living at home.