Caregiving is a balancing act. More than 8 million Canadians – and counting – are juggling work, home, parenthood, and other commitments all while carving out time to ensure the senior in their life is fully supported.
Research shows living at home with loved ones can help vulnerable seniors maintain their quality of life. That can bring a powerful uptick in peace of mind for the broader family, too. Yet, figuring out how to make that happen can sometimes be tricky. Everything from scheduling to family dynamics can throw up inadvertent hurdles to keeping a senior at home. Success lies in working collaboratively to find the approach that works best for your family.
Asking key questions is a solid starting point for mapping out a comprehensive care plan that works for all. Sharing candid, honest answers can drive a plan that’s feasible and sustainable. We’re offering four questions you can ask to help generate a better family dialogue, and get you started on the path to a personalized caregiving plan:
Question #1 – What kind of help do we need?
No two care plans are created equal, because no two situations are exactly the same. Drilling down and asking yourselves what, specifically, your senior needs on a daily, weekly or monthly basis is a good place to start. Most caregivers are providing some kind of help with transportation. More than half are helping with household activities. Meals, personal and medical care all factor high up on the list of ways caregivers support seniors. What is your loved one handling well on their own right now? And what are they wrestling with? Making a list helps you clearly define the type of care you’re going to need overall.
Question #2 – What keeps us up at night?
The worries that niggle at the back of your mind need air time. Some families are mostly concerned about a senior’s isolation and lack of opportunities to simply sit and chat. Others are more preoccupied with a previous fall and the chance of another. All of these concerns are valid. Isolation and loneliness have real effects on our health. Research shows we actually need friendship to survive. And falls aren’t usually an isolated event. By the numbers, 40% of home-care clients who’ve fallen once will fall again over a 90-day period. Whatever part of your caregiving role keeps you from drifting confidently off to sleep should be discussed as a family, and noted. Chances are, others will have similar fears – reinforcing the need to account for them in the kind of care plan you ultimately choose.
Question #3 – How much care can we realistically provide ourselves?
We’re hard-wired to want to do it all. Caregiving is no exception. But realistically, balancing caregiving for a senior with every other aspect of daily life can be hard. It takes time, resources, and careful planning to ensure you’re not slipping from efficiently navigating high wire act, to struggling under the demands of a three-ring circus. Caregiving takes a lot. That levels up for anyone caring for a senior with dementia; they report even higher rates of stress, depression, social isolation and chronic health problems. Getting real about what you and your family members can provide as caregivers isn’t just okay; it’s vital. Be specific and open with the number of hours you can offer, the times you can help, and the types of tasks you can handle. Talking through those elements as a family now can help prevent burnout – or worse – later.
Question #4 – How do we bridge the gap?
Knowledge is power. As you ask and answer what your senior needs, what you’re worried about, and just how much help you can (or can’t) provide, the gaps will start to emerge. Identifying the areas where you need the most help, talking through the budget to access it, and evaluating options as a family comes next. Sliding scale options on the scope of in-home care mean there are many different ways to flesh out family caregiving with external services. Evaluating home-care providers effectively means learning about the care plans a given provider offers, understanding how you’ll work together, and getting comfortable with the options you choose. Exploring what’s available to you in the broader community – from not-for-profit organizations to publicly-funded services – can complement what you’re doing. But before any of that comes the initial conversations around what you really need, worry about, and can offer yourselves. Skipping those first steps means you could be making decisions without all the facts. Painting a picture of comprehensive care isn’t just about broad strokes. It’s in the details. That’s what makes it work for everyone, especially the senior at the heart of it all..