When you make the decision to provide care to one of your loved ones, it can be a deeply rewarding and meaningful experience. This journey may also cause stress, take more time and energy than you expect, and include responsibilities that you didn’t plan for. The other issue can be that the decision to become a caregiver can happen on short notice, leaving you very little time to prepare. There is good news though. You can create a caregiving plan before you make the decision to become a family caregiver, which is a great way to empower yourself as a caregiver.
The Beginning of a Plan
There are building blocks that go into almost every caregiving plan, regardless of the final circumstances that may put you into the role. Start with the following:
- Have a Conversation – If you’re worried about a specific loved one, perhaps because you’ve seen a decline in their health recently, or perhaps because you have been spending more time with them, then it is time to start a conversation. Talk with your loved one about the choices available and what their specific wishes are. The conversation should also include your own boundaries and capabilities.
- Do Some Homework – Lookup and find the different agencies, resources, and services that are available in your area that are able to provide help. Places like Homewatch CareGivers of Silver Spring are available to help regardless of the health needs of your loved one. Write down phone numbers, contact names, and any information you feel might be pertinent. This step helps you build confidence, knowing that you have information ready and on hand if something unexpected happens.
- Create a Team – Every superhero needs a team to support them. Start making a list of individuals and organizations that you might be able to turn to for assistance with various tasks. This may include yard work, laundry service, grocery deliveries, and health care professionals. Which friends and relatives are you able to add to that list? Have a conversation with these individuals as well, and make sure that they’re available if you need them.
- Carve Out Time – Probably the most important part of empowering yourself as a caregiver is ensuring that you carve out time for yourself right at the beginning. If your plan includes Sunday afternoons off every week, then make sure it happens. Self-care is important. If you aren’t caring for yourself, then you won’t be able to care for your loved one, and you risk caregiver burn out.
You may encounter some resistance if your loved one feels like they aren’t in a place where they need constant care. It isn’t easy to contemplate embarrassment or a loss of control and dignity. When this happens, focus on the conversation as a hypothetical situation. Let them know you’re just creating a plan that may never be implemented, and they have control over when it is initiated. Letting your loved one know that you’re only interested in learning their wishes can make this conversation much easier.
It is also important to think about the different kinds of assistance you might need and where you can find resources to help. For example, where are you able to purchase medical supplies, are you able to rent items such as a hospital bed or lift, and where? What kinds of household tasks will you need help with? How flexible is your job, how far away are you, and is respite care available?
Finally, it is important to remember that as a new family caregiver, it can be easy to neglect basic functions such as sleep, nutrition and exercise. Instead, remind yourself to relax, stay connected to your friends, activities, organizations, and passions. At Homewatch CareGivers of Silver Spring, we’re here to help! We are experts when it comes to finding the resources you need to live with dignity. Contact us today to learn more or continue to browse our site for more information.