Best Practices for New Family Caregivers
Aging in place [at home] has been a hot topic over the past decade as baby boomers have been quickly increasing the senior population. While seniors may prefer to stay in their homes, they may require additional care, and family members, like yourself, step up to the plate. This selfless decision can support your loved one’s fears of moving into a senior living community, but it can also put your relationship at risk.
As you begin the family caregiver journey, the British Columbia Seniors Living Association wants to share some best practices to help you avoid potential obstacles.
It is time to embrace your responsibility as a family caregiver by learning the ins and outs of safely caregiving for a senior. This is a big obligation to undertake. Fortunately, Caregiver College is a knowledgeable resource that equips you with “specialized training programs [for caregivers] to help seniors cope with their condition while maximizing their capabilities.”
Use the Support That is Available
No one expects you to do this alone. Luckily in Canada, there are many local support services for family members helping adults age at home. To start, determine the level of support you need to give your loved one the quality of life they deserve. Determine what your budget would be for additional care services, and explore your options!
For zero cost, build your own support system of friends. Communicate with your family members and neighbors about what is going on and ask if and how they can contribute. Perhaps your cousin is available to help with transportation to appointments, or a neighbor can bring a homemade dish, so you don’t have to worry about cooking one night. Every little bit helps, and knowing you’re not alone is invaluable.
Beyond your personal connections, don’t forget about the fantastic groups across Canada that have been created to connect you with others going through the same situation. Carers Canada lists great resources by province to get you started.
Home Care Services
Depending on your situation, sometimes, the expertise required can be too much for a family caregiver to handle. In these instances, it is important to consider professionals that can customize their house calls to your schedule and needs. Home Instead is a reputable company across Canada that is designed to be flexible and compassionate for family caregivers.
Transparency and Respect are Key
To continue the conversation about communication and the importance of an emotional support system for yourself, it is also important to value transparency and respect. No matter your relationship with your family, being proactive in avoiding future conflicts by being fully transparent from the beginning is crucial.
Conversations surrounding care for a loved one can be difficult, and some family members’ reactions may end up surprising you for better or worse, which is why CaregiverStress.com has developed its 50/50 Rule®. This program has designed many tools to help build your communication and teamwork skills, specifically for your family dynamic while your loved one ages in place.
It is just as important to remember to prioritize transparency and respect while communicating with your elderly loved one, as well. Keep in mind the relationship and roles you shared before (daughter/mother, husband/wife, etc.) as that can be easily lost through the stress of caring for someone in need.
The Patient Safety Education Program™ of Canada provides a specific resource on building healthy communication between patients and caregivers. Give it a read to properly equip yourself to communicate with your loved one effectively.
One of the most common best practices that caregivers overlook is self-care. There is a reason why social workers, firefighters, therapists, etc. have training on self-care at home and work. Anyone supporting another human being without supporting him or herself will burn out. This is why, at BCSLA, our seal of approval includes minimum staff training requirements for members. But, for your specific needs, The Family Caregiver Alliance has made it their mission to inspire family caregivers to take responsibility for their self-care. Begin today by exploring their resources to be the best you can be for your aging loved one.
As things get busy with work, your spouse, your kids, holidays, etc. all on top of caring for an elderly loved one; it is easy to miss appointments or payments. Life can slip through your fingers as you miss your project deadline for work or have to choose between a student/teacher conference or a doctor’s appointment. To avoid things from getting too overwhelming and chaotic, we have some tips to keep you organized.
During every doctor’s appointment, meeting, or phone call, memory can be a tricky thing, so try to avoid solely relying on it. Trust in an organized notebook that is easy to carry around with you at all times. Ask questions during appointments and ensure everything is clear; it is all too common to leave an appointment in a blur of confusion.
Discuss Career Options
Be transparent with your employer about your situation and build out a plan in case things become too hectic or an emergency arises. Being transparent will reassure their confidence in you and will allow them the opportunity to be compassionate to your situation. We know it can be an intimidating conversation to have. Fortunately, CaregiverStress.com has thought of some great conversation starters and other resources to support you in your work/life balance while being a family caregiver.
Finances may be the last thing on your mind, but that’s why it can be vital to get them organized. Your aging loved one may not be in a position to responsibly handle all documents required when downsizing, writing their will, closing loose ends on mortgage loans, completing retirement benefit statements, or filing tax returns. This is where your support is significant, and in order to cover everything, you’ll have to be incredibly organized.
Canada’s Caregiver Action Network has written an extensive list of financial documents you may need to keep track of, as well as offering a fantastic chat line to answer any questions you may have.
Becoming a family caregiver is a selfless responsibility, but can require a lot of time and effort. BCSLA wants to remind you that you are not alone, and help is always available as you navigate the caregiver journey.