Taking care of a loved one is never an easy job, and when they become ill or unable to care for themselves at all, it’s physically, emotionally, and mentally demanding. It can become overwhelming, and many people who take on the role of caregiver choose to have in-home health care help. However, even that task can be difficult, because finding the right helper for your needs is important, and there are many things to consider, such as the financial end of things and whether health insurance will assist in paying for help, as well as how to keep yourself healthy and happy.
There are many facets to taking care of a loved one, so it’s important to do some research and figure out the best option for you and your family before making any decisions.
Here are a few of the best tips on how to get started.
Find out what insurance covers
If your loved one has been hospitalized or suffered an injury, they likely qualify under Medicare or another insurance plan for a licensed nurse or speech therapist to come into the home for a short period of time to help with rehabilitation and healthcare, as well as someone to come and help with daily activities, such as bathing and preparing meals. However, most insurance companies won’t pay for these personal helpers if that is the only care your loved one needs. It varies from state to state, so check local guidelines to see if your loved one qualifies for assistance.
If you’re spending most of your time taking care of your loved one and find that you’re falling behind when it comes to household chores, consider hiring a housekeeper. Having someone come in to help with housekeeping once or twice a week could really free up some of your time and allow you to focus on your loved one’s needs rather than worrying about getting the dishes clean or the laundry done.
Because your time is valuable, it’s important to plan ahead as much as possible. This means making sure your loved one will never be left alone in the event that you have an emergency to attend to, and also gathering any paperwork that is pertinent to your loved one’s care and wellbeing. Keep everything–medical forms, notes from the doctor, a list of medications, a contact list of doctors and personal caregivers–together in one folder so it can be easily accessed by both you and anyone who would be coming in to help you.
Take big changes seriously
If your loved one is having trouble sleeping or eating, it could be more than something physical causing the problem. It’s important to watch for big changes and engage a counselor or therapist who could come to the home and speak with your loved one if necessary.
“When ill people stop caring about eating, it’s often because their self-esteem is waning — they no longer think they’re worth being fed and cared for. Another huge appetite-killer is depression, something 50 percent of elders struggle with,” says aging expert James Huysman.
Take care of yourself
Because you’re the primary caregiver for your loved one, it’s important to make sure your needs are met as well. You won’t be able to make sure they’re taken care of if you’re unwell or stressed out, and because caregiving is such a demanding job that takes a toll on a person both physically and emotionally, experiencing anxiety or stress is not uncommon. Find things that relax you and leave you feeling good about yourself so that you can combat those issues effectively.
Remember that there are many resources for the elderly; do some research online to find out what your state or city offers in the way of assistance.
Kelli is part of DeployCare, which offers support to service members and their families.