Caring for a family member or a close friend is one of the most important roles you will ever play. It may start by simply running errands, driving them to their doctor appointment or shopping. Later, you may find yourself handling their medications, meals, finances, activities of daily living or other medical complexities. Therefore, it is important to know your loved one’s healthcare preferences with a plan in place before a crisis occurs. Here are five important steps to help you through this caregiving journey.
Step One: Start the conversation – “I just read an article about gathering all your important papers. Sometime can you show me where yours are and what you’d like us to do just in case?” Be open, express your love and concern, most importantly listen, and respect your loved one’s wishes regarding home, health, finances, and legal needs. Include other trusted family members to be a part of the process.
Step Two: Form Your Team – Go deep and wide and decide who is in charge. Team members do not have to live nearby or have lots of time available to be useful. Family or friends can work behind the scenes with meal planning/organizing, chores, bill paying, and assistive technology solutions.
Step Three: Make a Plan – Keep the plan simple and include immediate and future needs. There are several roles’ people can help with; an assertive advocate to communicate with medical professionals or insurance companies; if your loved one wants to move, assign someone to research locations and facilities. Someone else might offer to spend some weekends sorting through their personal belongings.
Step Four: Find Support – A variety of services are available to people aged 60 and over and their caregivers and older relative caregivers 55 or older. This support can be found through your local area on aging. The Idaho Commission on Aging website https://aging.idaho.gov/stay-educated/caregiver-skills/ provides an array of Caregiver Skills videos sponsored by AARP’s Home Alone Alliance. Additionally,
- Hire Help – housekeeping, meal preparation, laundry, shopping, bathing
- Secure Safety – Handrails, grab bars, night-lights, adjustable shower seats
- Stay organized – Caregiving apps such as Caring Village and Medisafe
Step Five: Care for yourself – Exercise, maintain a healthy diet, and sleep. Overall, be sure to take time for activities you enjoy.
Resource: https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/basics/info-2019/first-time-caregiver-tips.html?intcmp=AE-CAR-CRC-LL (AARP, Family Caregiving Guide)
Visit the ICOA Website for Caregiver information
Contact your local Area Agency on Aging for programs and services
For free education on healthy caregiving topics visit the Idaho Commission on Aging’s Caregiving Education webpage.