Here in the Chicago area and around the country, millions of adults are taking on the responsibility of caring for a parent or older relative – usually, while also shouldering the duty of caring for children of their own.
Home care can be an effective, affordable, and flexible option for getting seniors the personalized attention they need to be able to age in place comfortably and safely – while also giving family caregivers the chance to take a break and recharge. With home care, also called in-home care or non-medical home care, a senior companion spends time with your loved one, providing assistance as needed. This could mean helping with activities of daily living, providing transportation services, assisting with housekeeping or laundry, or helping with meal prep.
However, getting started with home care can feel intimidating. There are a lot of moving pieces to be taken into account. Even more importantly, getting started with home care can come with some challenging emotions for family caregivers.
Ready to reach out for the help you and your loved one truly deserve? Here are four ways to emotionally prepare for home care:
Have Open, Honest Conversations With Your Loved One
For many family caregivers, one of the biggest challenges in considering home care is managing all of the conversations that are sure to come with it. It can certainly be difficult to have conversations about long-term care with your aging loved ones. Remember, though, that these discussions can be an important step toward getting your loved one the level of care they truly need.
A 2016 poll from Care.com found that only 52% of people had actually discussed senior care with their parents or aging loved ones. 55% planned on not discussing senior care options “until there’s a need.” Why hold off the conversations for so long? According to the survey, 20% of people said that they were uncomfortable with the subject, and 15% said that they were afraid that their aging loved ones would “react defensively.”
That’s an understandable expectation – but that same survey found that it doesn’t exactly match with reality. In fact, 60% of survey respondents who had discussed senior care with their loved one said that the senior did not react defensively! Even better, starting the conversation about long-term care led to people feeling more informed (33%), hopeful (32%), and relieved.
These conversations can be incredibly important for assessing your loved one’s wants and needs, and setting healthy boundaries for yourself as a caregiver. Be open and empathetic, and be willing to truly listen and respond to your senior’s concerns. Get other decision makers involved, and start the conversation as early as possible, so your loved one doesn’t feel pressured or stressed about making decisions. If you expect resistance from a senior loved one, emphasize your desire to help them remain independent and stay at home for longer. Remember, home care is truly about getting your loved one the companionship and assistance it takes to age in place independently. It’s about empowering your loved one to live life more fully, not hold them back.
Keep Communicating With Your Care Team
Communication is one of the single biggest keys to success – before, during, and after getting started with home care.
As you start to work with a home care provider, set up clear expectations and find the most effective ways to communicate. During the research and hiring process, set clear expectations, and be upfront about your situation, to see if this companion service will be a good fit for your loved one’s unique circumstances. Similarly, don’t hesitate to ask lots of questions and follow up, if necessary. At the same time, be responsive to providing what the companion needs to get started, such as important paperwork, lists of contacts, house keys, and so on.
It’s also going to be important to coordinate with the rest of your loved one’s care team – a group that might include other family members, neighbors, doctors, physical therapists, and so on. Make sure everyone is on the same page, to avoid the risk of conflicts or indecision derailing your loved one’s care plan, right when it’s most important. Early on in the transition to home care, look for easy ways to streamline communication and planning. You may create a shared calendar, or join a group messaging app. Find what works for your caregiving network, and know that it may take some trial and error to perfect this process.
Look at All of the Upsides
As you start to look into long-term care options and consider home care for your loved one, you may feel a little bit of guilt, or even shame. It can feel like asking for help is a sign of weakness – like you’ve failed as a caregiver, or you’re giving up on your senior loved one. This is simply not true.
Above all else, remember that asking for help is a remarkable sign of strength and resilience – with remarkable benefits for your loved one, and for you.
There is no shame in knowing your limits, and getting the help that you truly do deserve! While you may feel some negative feelings, be sure to give yourself grace, and allow yourself time to adjust. Just as it may have been difficult to accept an initial role reversal with your aging parent, it may take some time to give them space now that you’re allowing someone else to assume caregiving responsibilities.
We know it can be easy to focus on the negatives when you’re starting with caregiving, and dwell on concerns and uncomfortable thoughts. Will your loved one be happy? Are they being treated well? What will happen if they have an accident or mishap and you’re not there?
These thoughts and concerns are all natural. One way to counterbalance these negative feelings is to list all of the positive outcomes and benefits that can come with bringing on professional home care help. Really take some time to list out the specific positives for your situation. Here are a few ideas to get your list started:
- “Having a professional caregiver makes it easier to enjoy time with my loved one as a family member, rather than always having to worry about their health and safety”
- “My loved one may enjoy and benefit from the chance to swap stories, play games, and share meals with a new friend”
- “A companion can provide care that was beyond what I wanted to give, like helping with grooming, bathing, or dressing”
- “I have more time to run errands and do work of my own”
- “I have an opportunity to rest and relax – so if I do return to full-time caregiving, I’ll have more energy, enthusiasm, and focus to give as a result”
- “A companion can keep an eye on my loved one at times when I’m busy or preoccupied, allowing them to live more independently and more safely”
Take Some Time to Care for Your Own Health and Well-being
Serving as a family caregiver can be rewarding and fulfilling – but there’s no denying that it can also take a lot out of you. Over the years, a large body of research has shown the dramatic toll that being a caregiver can take. As Psychology Today has noted, “providing daily care meant increased irritability, less time for hobbies or other recreation, and increased emotional stress when taking a parent to the doctor or other appointments.”
A prominent study from 2017 found that roughly half of all family caregivers suffer from depression, and 45% say that they do not have time to book or attend their own medical appointments. Polls have also found that unpaid caregivers tend to say that they do not have enough time to exercise or get enough rest. One study found that 70% of caregivers say that they feel tired “most of the time.”
Home care is also sometimes known as respite care, because it can give family caregivers the opportunity to get some much-needed and well-deserved respite. Having a professional take on routine caregiving duties means that you’ll have more time. More time means more opportunities to refocus on the other important aspects of your life, which you may have put on the backburner due to caregiving – including work, family, and, above all, taking care of your own health and well-being.
With a home care plan in place, you can schedule doctor’s appointments for yourself; take time to pursue a new hobby or reconnect with an old one; take a trip; catch up on sleep; make more time for healthy, nourishing meals. The possibilities are endless! Bringing on a senior companion is a way to preserve your own health and peace of mind, without sacrificing quality of care for your loved one. That’s a real win-win situation for both you and your senior!
How Companions for Seniors Can Help
Are you a loving and supportive family member of an aging adult? Do you think home care may be a good fit for your loved one, but unsure of how to get started?
Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns! We’re here to help make things easier for family caregivers and their aging loved ones. Caring for others isn’t just what we do; it’s our passion. We’re always here to be an open and sympathetic ear, and we’re happy to help guide you in the right direction when it comes to all things long-term care.
Here at Companions for Seniors, our mission is to empower seniors to live independently and with dignity in the comfort of their own home by helping them to lead an active and enriched lifestyle, connecting them with their community, and nurturing meaningful relationships.
Our companions are bonded and highly trained, and our team can help your loved ones develop and implement a personalized care plan, typically within just a few days. Our goal is to help the older adult in your life maintain a higher quality of life – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually – while giving you a chance to get some much-needed respite
Have any questions? Ready to start thinking seriously about home care? Don’t hesitate to get in touch online today to get the conversation started, or give us a call at 866-910-9020.