Visit care.com for more resources for caregivers. / Jon Feingersh/Masterfile
Making effective decisions about the care of a loved one often takes more time than expected and requires an understanding of the long-term-care system. But a proactive approach can yield better options when the time comes and can head off a family emergency, says Jody Gastfriend of Care.com, an online resource that connects families with trusted care providers.
Here’s her advice:
Talk early and often.
Understand your parents’ preferences as they age. Don’t make assumptions about what type of care they may or may not accept. Instead, ask.Respect autonomy.
Rather than starting off with an admonition (for example, “You have to ...”), lead with an empathic statement such as, “I am worried about you because ... if you continue to live alone, you may fall and break your hip.”
Learn about the different types of care and payment options.
Many caregivers panic when they realize Medicare won’t pay for long term care in a nursing home and the average price tag is $75,000 per year.
Realize that resistance is common, so introduce support measures incrementally. Try first suggesting a caregiver once a week so the help feels comfortable.
Seek out expert help.
The assistance of a social worker, geriatric care manager, financial advisor or elder law attorney can go a long way in guiding you through the legal, financial and emotional challenges of caregiving.
Be proactive about caregiving.
Set the stage to enjoy the precious time to just be together as your parents age and require help. Someday, you may be comforted to know that as a result of planning ahead, you were better able to provide the best care possible and wisely navigate the caregiving journey.
And remember, take care of yourself first.
As simple as it sounds, many caregivers skip this important step and burn themselves out. You cannot care for others if you neglect your own needs. Neglecting oneself is the quickest way to snapping – which leads to guilt – which leads to more neglecting oneself.