At some point in your life, you may need to care for a loved one as they get older – it may be a parent, aunt, uncle, or someone else in the family to whom you are close. If you become responsible for their care and welfare, what should you do?
It may be that you’re preparing for a future situation, or you’re looking for support as you care for someone in their later years. Here are some of the ways that you can look into making your life – and theirs – that little bit more comfortable.
Food and nutrition
Nutrition can become less of a priority when people reach a certain age. When combined with health problems, this can mean they deteriorate quickly. However, one way that you can help is to make sure that they eat properly and regularly. If they can’t have three large meals a day – because they haven’t got the strength or appetite to do so – then you can give them smaller portions more frequently.
Eating properly means that they will get the nutrients they need that might make them feel better, and help combat health problems. It will also give them more energy, which can help them to be more active.
If your elderly relative falls ill or becomes incapacitated, are you prepared to manage their money and pay their bills? Even if they are able to do these tasks themselves now, it’s better to have the details that you may need before the time comes when your relative can’t do it themselves.
There are a few questions you should ask them, which may include:
- Have they appointed a power of attorney who can manage their finances when the time comes?
- Where are their financial records kept, and how can they be accessed?
- What are the account numbers, and the names of the financial institutions they use?
- What are their monthly expenses, and how do they pay the bills?
- What’s their annual income?
- Do they get any government benefits?
- Do they have any health or care insurance?
- Do they have an accountant, attorney, or financial planner, and have they done any estate planning?
Caring for others is admirable, but looking after yourself is also important. You probably know you should be, but self-imposed barriers may be stopping you, so identify your barriers, and start making changes and setting goals.
Have a think about the benefits of self-care, too. These include to ensure you’re physically and mentally fit to care for a relative, to reduce stress, and to help avoid burnout.
You should also ask for help, which can be a big barrier for carers. Think about who you can ask, and when. It may be that you speak to places such as Skylark Senior Care, who can look after elderly patients during the day, allowing you to do other things, which could be seeing a friend for coffee as part of your self-care goals.
Make sure you surround yourself with a support network if you are a carer. If it becomes too much, do seek professional help: speaking to a counselor may help you to process the complicated emotions that come with being a carer.