Caring for a family member as they age is an important priority for many working adults. In many instances, their job prevents them from providing that care. Bringing in a family caregiver makes it possible for their parents and other loved ones to continue to live independently and remain in their own homes. Bringing in a caregiver can be a complicated process, however, so it’s helpful to keep some basic advice in mind.
Set Expectations for Caregiving
Whether it’s a professional nurse or another family member, bringing someone in to provide caregiving for an aging loved one is a major change for everyone involved. Setting clear and realistic expectations from the very beginning is vital for ensuring a smooth transition. This can range from the most basic expectations, such as how many days a week the caregiver will be providing care, to more nuanced expectations about how they should approach a given situation.
For instance, if a loved one is suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s, the caregiver needs to know what the expectations should be for when they leave the house. Are there places they should avoid? How should the caregiver handle interactions with other people? Expectations can also cover seemingly trivial details, such as how much television should be permitted or whether the caregiver needs to perform certain household chores. Establishing expectations and boundaries ahead of time can avoid putting your loved ones in the middle of an uncomfortable situation.
But expectations rarely work in only one direction. The caregiver will likely have expectations of their own, especially if they have a background in professional care. They need to know how much freedom they have to make decisions regarding day-to-day care or what changes they will be allowed to make to routines. This conversation can be more difficult with family members without any formal caregiver training, but it’s important to discuss expectations ahead of time rather than letting unresolved or unaddressed issues linger and contribute to burnout, resentment, or other caregiver problems.
Talk to Your Aging Loved Ones About Caregiving
Bringing a family caregiver into the home should never be an unexpected development. Even if the caregiver is a fellow family member, your aging loved ones might not think they need assistance. In some cases, they may even engage in stubborn behavior that can create stress for everyone involved (them most of all).
That’s why you should start the conversation about bringing in a family caregiver long before that care is actually necessary. If your aging loved ones want to remain in their home, early discussions about caregiving support can establish a predictable framework that helps them prepare for and accept the change.
Of course, when the time actually comes to bring in a caregiver, your loved ones may still disagree and resist the idea. Whether it’s a professional caregiver or a fellow family member, integrating them into your loved one’s routine slowly allows them to adjust to the change. Accepting help from someone else can often feel like a defeat or a failure, especially for highly independent seniors, but working a caregiver into their life gradually allows them to see how the extra support will make things easier for them.
In some cases, people don’t have the chance to prepare. A serious and unexpected health crisis, for example, could force a family to bring a caregiver into the home quite suddenly. In these situations, it’s important to discuss the subject with empathy. Have a conversation that identifies and acknowledges their concerns rather than simply telling them you need to bring in someone to help. This way you can address the issues to try to get their buy in.
What NOT to Say to a Caregiver
Being a caregiver can be stressful and exhausting. This is true even for trained professionals, but it’s especially true for family members who are taking on caregiving responsibilities. While the day-to-day responsibilities of caregiving can present several challenges, dealing with close family members is often one of the most difficult to navigate. That’s because there are many opportunities for misunderstandings and unfair assumptions that contribute to caregiver strain and resentment.
While people are often quick to offer family caregiver advice, they aren’t always aware of how that advice comes across from the caregiver’s perspective. Here are a few examples of things you should avoid saying to a family caregiver:
Even when it’s coming from a good place, any statement that starts like this comes across sounding judgemental and will likely put a caregiver on the defensive. Instead, try starting a conversation that focuses on helping to find solutions rather than giving instructions.
“I would do it differently.”
Closely related to “you should” statements, this phrase suggests that the caregiver did something obviously wrong. It calls their decision making and competence into question rather than seeking to understand their actions.
“You look tired.”
Caregiver exhaustion is a huge component of burnout. A family caregiver doesn’t need someone to point out obvious signs of fatigue. When someone does seem tired or run down, it would be far more helpful to take an active step to help them (such as giving them time off or arranging for some form of personal care) rather than commenting on their stress.
“I’m too busy to do what you do.”
Just because a family caregiver has decided to help your aging loved one doesn’t mean the rest of their life is on hold. By stating that you’re “too busy” to do the same, you’re implying that the things happening in your life are more important or meaningful than the things happening in the caregiver’s life. This is especially common when family members are the people providing caregiving. A better approach would be to find opportunities to provide support while also valuing the time someone has dedicated to caring for your aging loved ones.
Where to Find Family Caregiver Advice
Whether you’re bringing in a professional caregiver or turning to a family member to care for an aging adult, it can be difficult to provide support and give good family caregiver advice. That’s why Homethrive gives you access to your very own Care Guide who has the experience and the resources you need to make better decisions regarding your loved ones. Whether you need to develop a detailed care plan to help an independent senior age in place or coordinate resources to make life easier for your family caregiver, the Homethrive team stands ready to guide you through one of the most challenging, but rewarding situations your family will face.
To learn more about Homethrive’s services and see our Care Guides in action, schedule a call today!