So, you’ve gathered some info…OK, a lot of info. You’ve answered some questions. And, you’ve assessed the health and home safety of your senior family member. Now, it’s time to build your caregiving team! But, who will that consist of and how do you decide? And, what exactly will everyone’s role be through all of this?
Let’s talk about the next step to providing home care to a family member: building your team.
Who Is a Caregiver?
The basic definition of a caregiver is “anyone who regularly looks after and provides assistance to a person who is sick, elderly, or disabled.” In regard to senior home care, there are two basic types: family caregivers and professionals.
A family caregiver can be a spouse, relative, friend, or neighbor. More than 1 in 5 people in the US provide some form of home care to a family member or someone close to them.
A professional caregiver is a person whose career is based on providing assistance, care, or support. Professionals can be nurses, physical therapists, personal care assistants, and others you may hire independently or through an agency.
Building Your Team
Oftentimes a spouse or the child who lives closest to their senior parent becomes the leading caregiver. Alternatively, that primary person could be any family member, neighbor, or friend; because let’s be honest – every situation is unique. No matter who you are, it’s time to ask the question: Who will be part of your team?
It’s important to bear in mind that just because you’re picking out your dream team, doesn’t mean that these are all people you should be counting on 24-hours-per-day, 7-days-a-week (and, you should probably make sure they know that too). Your team should consist of people who can do some hands-on stuff as well as those who can just lend a little support here and there. Remember, a shoulder to cry on and a hand to high-five can be just as important as those who do the “heavy lifting.”
Here are some potential team members to consider putting on your list:
- Religious leaders
Well, round up the siblings and call your cousins. Leave messages for your mom’s favorite neighbor and even the church pastor. Why? Because it’s time for a family meeting!
Once you have a list of team members, it’s time to call a good ol’ fashioned family meeting. This should take place at a time and location that is convenient for most. And, don’t let distance be a problem – make use of today’s tech and have out-of-state family members join through a video call! And, don’t forget, as long as your senior family member is able to, and it feels appropriate, they should be there too!
So, what’s this family meeting all about? It’s time to talk details. Goals, needs, duties, finances…it all gets ironed out here.
Hopefully, at this point, you’ll already have a few ideas of your own jotted down. If you’ve answered the health and safety assessment questions, you’ll have a pretty good idea of your loved one’s needs. Begin by sharing your notes. Then, have others share their observations, concerns, and opinions. Finally, set some goals. Here are some common home care goals (but, you may add to this list):
- Continuing to live at home
- Avoid hospitalization
- Physical safety
- Staying social
- Staying active
How are you going to help your senior family member attain these goals? What do they need help with? Here are a few checklists of common things seniors may need help with at home to get you thinking:
- Wash, dry, and fold laundry
- Cleaning the kitchen
- Emptying and taking out the garbage
- Keeping a clean bathroom
- Basic homemaking (i.e. dusting, vacuuming, and tidying)
- Making the bed
- Keeping track of bills and paying them on time
- Assistance with feeding and grooming pets
Personal Care Needs
- Bathing safely and effectively, including washing the whole body and hair
- Brushing, combing, and doing hair
- Brushing teeth
- Getting dressed
- Incontinence care
- Grocery shopping, including loading and unloading groceries, as well as organizing and putting them away
- Meal prep
- Help with eating
- Ensuring a balanced diet or specific dietary needs are met
- Medication management and reminders
- Blood sugar checks
- Blood pressure checks
- Medication refills
- Vital monitoring (for certain medical conditions)
- Helping with prescribed exercise or therapy
- Setting up doctor appointments and attending
- Accompanying to appointments, stores, or other social activities
- Foster hobbies and interests through friendship
- Reading together, playing games, doing crafts, etc.
- Providing transportation
Don’t forget – caregiving and support may need to be altered as illnesses progress or other circumstances change!
Who Can Help?
Doling out duties and responsibilities is going to depend a lot on who lives where and how much time they’re able (and willing) to donate. What role should everyone play? And, is hiring any outside help feasible? When deciding who can help, be clear about care and financial needs. Is there someone who can’t lend any time, but can help with money? Remember to include your senior loved one’s wishes. And, put everything in writing so there’s no later confusion (especially if you have a large family!).
There’s no one-size-fits-all for being financially prepared to care for a family member at home. Regardless, here are some important considerations:
- After establishing needs and goals, research the costs associated with any home modifications, mobility aids, or other outside help you may hire.
- Does your aging family member have savings that can support any home care needs?
- Who on your team can afford to help (whether it’s by giving money or missing work once in a while)?
- Investigate financial help
- Does your loved one receive Medicare?
- Social Security?
- Is your loved one eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program?
- Examine insurance and retirement plans, including long-term care insurance
- Who will make financial decisions on behalf of your loved one?
Related: Long-Term Care Insurance Basics
Once you’ve built your team and established some goals, you’re ready to move on! Making a plan comes next…