At the present rate of growth, experts predict that the number of older adults will outnumber their younger counterparts by 2050 for the first time in history. As the average life expectancy of Americans also continues to increase, more and more people find themselves providing care for an elderly parent, family member, or even neighbor. If you are among those caregivers, you may not realize the toll your selfless caring is taking on you, your family, and even your health. This is particularly true if the elderly patient you care for is also suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. To help you help yourself, here are some tips for caregivers.
Tips for Caregivers
If you are selfless enough to be caring for a loved one on a regular basis, you are likely not paying attention to the affect that caregiving is having on you. Whether you are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or an elderly individual who is simply succumbing to the physical and mental deterioration that is part of the natural aging process, you will also suffer as will your family as a result of the care you provide if you don’t take steps to prevent that from happening. Consider the following tips:
- Knowledge is power. Learn as much as possible about your loved one’s physical and mental condition. If you do not already have legal authority to access medical records, do so now by having your loved one execute a power of attorney and/or advance directive.
- Set limits and stick to them. You are human and, therefore, there are limits to what you can do by yourself. Accept that fact and do not push yourself past your limits.
- Schedule hours/days off every week for yourself. Everyone needs time to recharge. Schedule this time and stick to it because you will not be any good to anyone if you are run down and exhausted.
- Find a support group. They are not difficult to find. Locate one and lean on the people in the group who are going through the same thing you are. California’s Caregiver Resource Centers is an excellent resource to begin your search for a support group as well as a wealth of additional information and resources that may be of help to you.
- Share the burden. Let other family members and/or friends help by taking over on your “day off” or by cooking dinner for you and your family, for example.
- Hire professional help when needed. Most Medicaid programs will cover in-home professional healthcare services for Alzheimer patients. Take advantage of this opportunity to get some much-needed professional assistance.
- Consider paying yourself. Many of those same Medicaid programs offer the option to pay a family member who is providing care. If your loved one qualifies, you may be able to participate in one of those programs, allowing you to accept some financial compensation for your caregiving functions without taking money directly from your loved one who may not have any to spare. Accepting compensation often helps ease the financial burden your caregiving may have placed on your own family.
- Accept the need for LTC when it becomes necessary. It is not a question of “if,” but of “when” long-term care will be needed. At some point it will no longer be safe for your loved one to remain in your home so do not make the mistake of ignoring this eventuality. Start looking into your options early on so when the time comes everyone is prepared.
Please download our FREE estate planning checklist. If you have additional questions or concerns about caring for an elderly loved one, contact us at the Northern California Center for Estate Planning & Elder Law to discuss your legal options by calling (916)-437-3500 or by filling out our online contact form.