When you serve as a family caregiver to an aging adult, you will inevitably have to make some incredibly difficult decisions.
Let’s explore some of the important choices that you may face during your caregiving journey here in Chicago — and what you can do to make these tough moments easier for yourself and your loved ones.
Making Difficult Decisions as a Caregiver
As a caregiver, each day will be made up of lots of little choices — and some intimidating “big picture” decisions, as well.
For better or for worse, family caregivers will often be deeply involved in decisions that may affect an older adult’s health and lifestyle. In our experience working with families around Chicagoland, this may include…
- Making long-term care decisions. Would your aging loved one prefer to receive home care, or move into an assisted living facility? How will you pay for whichever option you choose? Who in your family will take on the responsibility of coordinating with your loved one’s professional care provider?
- Which sibling will take on the bulk of the caregiving duties? Often, this decision is based on pure geographic proximity. But sometimes, it can cause a rift between loved ones — especially when one sibling feels that they are taking on too much responsibility.
- Taking away the keys. How will you know when it’s time for your aging loved one to give up driving? How will you approach this difficult conversation? What can you do to make sure they’re still able to get around without a car?
- Dealing with your budget. Over time, seemingly small expenses can pile up. In addition to the costs of long-term care, family caregivers often have to face day-to-day decisions about paying for food, gas, medical care, and living expenses on behalf of their senior loved one.
- Managing your time. Is it OK for you to take a night off from caring for your senior loved one to attend your little one’s softball game? Is one member of the family taking on too much of the caregiving burden by themselves? Do you have a backup caregiver to step in when you can’t be there in person?
- Difficult medical decisions. What will you do if your loved one has to go to the hospital? Who will be responsible for making tough medical decisions, in the event that your loved one becomes incapacitated? Who is in charge of picking up prescriptions, or coordinating with your loved one’s healthcare team?
We know from experience that facing these decisions is never easy. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take now to make navigating these difficult times easier down the line.
Here are some guidelines and inspiration to draw from, as you approach these difficult care decisions:
1.) How Has Your Loved One Prepared for the Future?
Making difficult choices can be made a lot easier in the moment when you have a guide to work from. For seniors and their loved ones, this means taking time to prepare in advance.
For older adults, having a comprehensive estate plan can help provide an invaluable road map. Advanced healthcare directives, powers of attorney, wills, trusts and other mechanisms can all help your senior loved one to assert their wishes when it comes to their finances and medical treatments, particularly when they cannot make decisions or express their wishes for themselves.
Without these documents, they may be leaving important decisions up to chance — and accidentally sowing the seeds for confusion and conflict down the road. Don’t be afraid to talk with your loved ones about these important matters. Help them get organized around the house to make sure that important documents are always accessible when needed, and encourage them to work with an attorney or financial planner to make sure their records are up-to-date.
2.) Be Patient, Honest, and Empathetic With Yourself
As a caregiver, it’s often easy to put the needs of others above your own. “Give” is right there in the name, after all! However, it’s also important to remember that you’re only human. It’s OK to be scared. It’s not always your responsibility to have all the answers. And it’s only natural to drop the ball every now and then.
Try to show the same patience and empathy to yourself as you would to a loved one in your care. Don’t dwell on your mistakes; accept that some things will be out of your control; and try not to beat yourself up when something goes wrong. Don’t be afraid to laugh. Look for the positives and try to think on the bright side — particularly when it comes to making tough decisions.
As caregiving authority Carol Bradley Bursack put it in a great article for Aging Care:
“Don’t even begin to think about striving for perfection. Aiming for this unattainable goal is a recipe for caregiver burnout. Instead, stick to asking yourself one simple question: Are you doing the best you can under the circumstances? If the answer is yes, then fret no more. That’s all you can require of yourself… By providing the best care you can under the current circumstances, you have honored the spirit of your larger promise to do your best for your care recipient.”
3.) Set Boundaries and Accept Your Limits
One of the most important things you can do for yourself as a caregiver is to know your limits. Caregivers set themselves up for burnout when they try to take on too much. This can take a toll on your health and well-being — which could, in time, actually hinder your ability to provide care for your loved one.
Be proactive about setting boundaries. Learn what tasks you can delegate, and figure out when you can say “no.” Don’t forget to take care of yourself. You’ll be in a better position to make decisions and be open to complicated discussions when you have a clear mind and a clean bill of health. Make time to exercise. Try to get as much rest as you can. Focus on getting proper nutrition and drinking plenty of water. Make time to step away from caregiving and pursue something you love, whether that’s going for a hike or simply reading a good book.
You cannot pour from an empty container. The better you take care of yourself, the better equipped you’ll be to care for others.
4.) Get Support
Facing tough circumstances is even harder when you feel like you’re going at it all alone. Remember, there will always be people and resources out there that can help — and there is no shame in reaching out! Asking for help is not a sign of weakness or failure, but an incredible gesture of strength — and one of the best decisions you may ever make for yourself and for your loved one.
Support can come in many forms, depending on your needs. If you need a safe space to vent about the challenges of caregiving, or get advice from people who have been in your shoes, look for local caregiver support groups in your area.
Want to take some everyday chores off of your plate? There are lots of local services designed for seniors living at home, from organizations that will pick up their dry-cleaning to meal delivery options that will bring nutritious and filling meals right to their front door.
Looking for an extra set of hands, or a friendly face who can be there for your loved one when you cannot? Companion care is a dependable, affordable, and flexible option that can help ensure that your loved one always has the support they need. In-home care can empower your loved one to live safely and independently in the comfort and safety of their own home, while giving you the opportunity to enjoy some well-deserved respite.
5.) Be Ready to Communicate
Oftentimes, the biggest barrier to making difficult care decisions is talking about them in the first place. As a result, lots of people avoid talking about intimidating subjects like money, health, or aging — until it’s too late.
Rather than waiting until an accident or emergency strikes, start these loaded conversations early, when everyone can come together and give these important topics the space and time they deserve. If you’re nervous, consider starting by talking about a family friend, or a recent news story. These can be great icebreakers, and lead to a more in-depth and personal conversation in no time.
If you face challenges or confrontations, try to avoid getting into arguments. Reiterate that you’re all on the same team, and trying to make decisions that will benefit everyone. Be respectful, empathetic, and open to hearing different ideas and viewpoints. Communicate calmly and clearly. Be ready to do a little research beforehand, so you can back up your ideas as necessary. This may mean looking into senior care options in your area, talking with your loved one’s doctors or pharmacists, or doing some preliminary budgeting for your family.
Try to bring all decision-makers together in the same space, whenever possible. Video chatting can be a great option for long-distance relatives. Take notes, and be prepared to start and stop these conversations a few times.
Looking for a Solution That Works for Your Family? Companions for Seniors Is Here to Help
If you have a loved one that you believe could benefit from the assistance of an experienced, professional caregiver, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Companions for Seniors.
At Companions for Seniors, our mission is to help Chicagoland seniors live independently and with dignity in the comfort of their own homes by empowering them to lead an active and enriched lifestyle, connecting them with their community, and nurturing meaningful relationships.
At the same time, we want to help support all of the dedicated and compassionate caregivers, who devote so much time and energy to their aging loved ones. We believe that caregivers deserve the chance to rest, recharge, and refocus, and we’ll do everything in our power to give you back time for the things that matter most.
Our companions are trained and bonded, and can help provide a variety of services designed to help your loved one remain in the comfort of their own home, from providing assistance with activities of daily living, to offering driving services in a clean, comfortable company car. We’re locally owned and operated in the Chicago area, with clients in the city and suburbs.
Have any more questions? Interested in learning more about how home care might fit into your family’s plan? We would love to keep the conversation going and help out, in any way we can! Don’t hesitate to get in touch online or give us a call at 866-910-9020 today.