As people age, many individuals find themselves suffering from problems associated with old age, such as loss of mobility, sight and hearing issues, or perhaps mental health problems such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Some of these ailments, if not all, will require a level of care. In some cases, this will fall to their children or grandchildren, and in other cases, they will need to go into special accommodation to be properly looked after. Whichever option is chosen, there are some points to bear in mind when taking care of an older relative, even if you don’t live with them.
Make A Plan
Many people don’t choose or expect to be carers; it is just something that they fall into doing after a parent, or other older relative becomes ill. It can often be a family’s first instinct to keep all the care that is needed ‘in-house’and those who are able to help out do so. Eventually, as the patient becomes older or more unwell, this becomes much more difficult, but by that time it can be hard to ask for help or to change routines. This is why it is crucial to make a plan about the care that your older loved one needs.
As soon as it becomes clear that you have become a carer for your family member, then a plan must be made. Things to consider will include:
- Looking at your options regarding work and family life
- Whether you need to relocate
- Financial concerns
- A plan for when you can no longer take care of your relative. It might mean contacting a respite center or a special home such as this company, for example.
Knowing what is going to happen is impossible, but planning for all eventualities is vital.
Take Time Out
Something that is absolutely essential for those living with and caring for their older relatives on a permanent basis, but that is also important to remember for those who are doing it on a part-time basis, is to take time for yourself. If you don’t look after your own health and mental wellbeing, then it will be impossible for you to look after anyone else’s.
Carers may have to hold down jobs as well as caring for their loved one, which can make things even harder, and if there are children involved as well, it can be utterly overwhelming. Taking time out to have some me time is not selfish, even if you might feel that way. It is absolutely necessary to keep you happy and healthy and able to care, but you must put your own health first, no matter what.
Stress is something that many carers will suffer from because caring for someone, even on a part-time basis when a residential home is doing the rest, is a worry. Everything has to change when they become ill, and although most family members wouldn’t begrudge helping out, these changes can be sudden and upsetting. Not only that, but the constant worry about their health and happiness can take its toll on your own mental health.
In some cases, these levels of stress can be reduced by taking time out, as mentioned above. However, in other cases, it can be a long-term problem that is severe, and a few days of rest is not going to help entirely. This is when you will need to speak to a doctor or other mental health professional for advice and maybe even treatment. Keeping these kinds of problems to yourself is not a good idea and can lead to much bigger problems for you and for the person you care for.
Top tip: an easy way to de-stress is to journal, where you write down your concerns for the day, and let it out so you can refocus your mind and start again.
Have A Support Network
If you possibly can, ensure that you have a good support network around you. This might be:
- Family members who know and love the relative you are looking after
- A good group of friends who will be able to step in when required, or who can keep you feeling happy at the very least.
- A separate third party, such as a carer or therapist
Without this network, you will feel very alone, and it will be much easier to be overwhelmed. If you have no one who can help you, then it is imperative that you speak to a professional about what help you can get and when. No one needs to go through these struggles of caring for an ill or elderly loved one alone.
Get The Estate In Order
Although it is perhaps the last thing you will want to consider, one day your elderly loved one is going to pass away, and if their estate is a mess and a confusion when that happens, it will be much harder on everyone who is left behind because the process of being able to distribute what is left and get some closure will take so much longer. It isn’t a pleasant conversation, but it is so important to discuss a will with your loved one if they are of sound mind. Make sure that if they have already written one, you know where it is kept so that it can be executed when needed. If they haven’t written one, then perhaps help them by writing one together.
If your relative is not of sound mind and is suffering from dementia, for example, then you may need to take power of attorney over their accounts. This means that you can make financial decisions on their behalf should you need to, and it can stop any potential problems from occurring. If this is something that you are considering, make sure you speak to other family members first to let them know what you want to do and why. If everyone knows and understands what is happening it will be much easier to prevent fallouts at a later stage.