Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Start Caregiving

August 4, 2009 at 7:48 pm Leave a comment

“I don’t know if I can do this.” Have you ever said that? I sure have.

Caregiving can seem like an unmovable mountain standing smack-dab in the middle of your future. No way to get around it. It just is. Instead of seeing it as this gigantic dark-awful, ominous thing that’s going to consume you, let’s break it down. Rock-by rock.

Yes, it’s wise to think about caregiving before caregiving starts.

In some ways, it is inevitable. Your parent (or parents) are likely to  have health issues (eventually), and yes, they will transition from being a senior to an elder. It’s smart to begin to make a plan and start asking yourself a few questions.

Questions to Consider Before Caregiving Starts:

  • How much time and care does your loved one need now? Think about how much time you’re investing. Jot down everything–from lawn care, doctor visits, to social time. You may already be caregiving and just not know it! That’s fine, but it helps to know where you are now so you can gauge how things are going and monitor how much it increases.
  • Will you need to move–or will your parent need to move in order for you to offer more care? Do you have a time-frame for this? Two years? Five? What might other living options be? You can’t know for sure when/if something could happen and you’ll need to change your plan, but changing a plan is different than not having one at all.
  • What other forms of caregiving help are available now or in the future? Knowing what’s out there–what community, state, and religious help might be available to you and your loved one can make a world of difference. Remember as a caregiver, you don’t have to do it all yourself. In many ways, you’re a caregiving manager. (I used to tease my mom and tell her I was her “Bookie.” I booked her appointments).
  • Will you eventually need to make a job or career change? Try not to have an all or nothing mentality. Consider part-time, co-op or tele-commuting. Caregiving doesn’t mean you have to completely abandon your life. Enlist lots of help and keep the word “compromise” firmly in your brain. Caregiving can also be the perfect time for you to change careers or start your own business.
  • Ask, how does this affect my partner, spouse, children, and siblings? Ask them, they’ll tell you. And be sure to ask for their support, and even a little involvement ahead of time. It’s frustrating when someone just assumes you’ll pitch in. Be considerate. Teaching kids to participate in family life can be healthy. They don’t need to spend copious hours a week, but a few minutes here and there helps them realize they’re a needed and valued member. Also ask them to be honest if things get too difficult or stressful. Give them permission to speak up and say how they’re feeling.
  • Go ahead and run those “worst-case scenarios” in your brain. You’re going to do it anyway. It’s called “worrying.” Why not worry with an end-goal in mind. So, if dad falls and breaks his hip, what’s your plan? If mom has another heart attack and needs surgery, what then? If your parents get Alzheimer’s how will you handle the day-to-day challenges as well as your own emotions? It’s better to at least be prepared and have a few back-up ideas in place rather than to be a deer in the emergency room over-head lights.
  • Create your team now. I called them my tribe and I couldn’t have made it without them. You need a girlfriend, a sister, a caregiving support group, or a neighbor in place–someone outside your immediate family you can vent to. This is healthy and necessary. You also need to consider everyone from your mother’s doctors and nurses to her best friend who calls her every day a part of your team. The more people who know what’s going on, who can help even if it’s just with uplifting thoughts and sending a funny card–make a huge difference for everyone involved.
  • Make a committment–to yourself ahead of time. Put it on paper:  I will care for my health. I will ask for help before I need it. I will keep a sense of humor and a tender heart. I will not allow caregiving to destroy my marriage or my children’s lives, I will get away for a vactation twice a year…whatever you need to promise. Do it from the start.
  • Get ready to be surprised. Caregiving while stressful (to put it mildly) is also rewarding. Get ready to learn more about yourself and your parent than you ever knew before. Get ready to grow and mature in ways that will astound you. Get ready for a roller-coaster ride of emotions–some sweet, some exhilarating, and some gut-wrenching. But that’s life, so welcome to the party.

Don’t worry about whether you’ll be a good caregiver. If you’re already asking how to manage the changes that are coming your way, chances are, you’ll well on your way to figuring out how to make caregiving work. Love is the only requirement. The rest is on-the-job training. Rock by tiny little rock.

Entry filed under: brain fitness, caring for parents, elder care, family caregiving. Tags: , , , , , .

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This Blog

Hi, I'm Carol O'Dell. This blog will include stories and lessons I've learned while caring for my mom, and now as I speak to caregivers around the country. I hope to offer suggestions, ideas and insights that will help others.

While this blog is supported by Dakim Brain Fitness, I’m not blogging to promote the Dakim company or products. Instead, I’m writing about how caring and being cared for affects your life and your family. My hope is that this blog gives you a place to learn, reflect, gain new perspective to make it another day.

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