How to care for seniors at home for as long as possible
People often say, “I promised her I’d never put her in a nursing home.” or “Dad told me he never wanted to live in one of those places.”
For a variety of reasons, caregivers may choose to care for their older adult at home. And if the situation is safe for everyone involved, keeping aging parents at home is a wonderful thing to do.
But it is important to remember that senior care is one of the toughest and most stressful jobs you will ever have. That is why caregivers are at such high risk for burn out and serious health conditions.
So, if you are caring for your older adult at home, it is essential to pace yourself. That means you cannot be running at 110% every day. We are human and that is simply not sustainable over the long run.
Pacing yourself and getting assistance helps you stay as healthy as possible so you can continue providing great care.
To help you keep going over the long term, we share 5 tips for keeping aging parents at home for as long as possible by reducing the caregiving workload and decreasing stress.
1. Understand how much care is needed
In caregiving, many of us fall into a state where we “can’t see the forest for the trees.”
When you are overwhelmed with a long list of caregiving To Dos, you are so focused on the tasks that you are not seeing the overall picture.
The first step is to find out how much care your older adult really needs.
Creating a list of daily, weekly, and monthly care tasks helps you understand how much help is needed during the day, at night, and on weekends. You will realize how much supervision is needed and at which times of day.
An easy way to make a comprehensive list is to set a notepad out and make quick notes every time you or someone else helps your older adult with something. After a week, you will have a good overview of what your senior needs help with and at what times of day.
To make sure everything is captured, keep the notetaking going longer to see if there’s anything that happens once or twice a month that you don’t want to forget.
2. Be realistic about how much care you can provide without harming your own health
Now that you know what you’re older adult’s care needs are, you can figure out if that’s something you can handle without help.
Or maybe looking over the list helps you realize that you definitely need help with a variety of tasks.
In your evaluation, think carefully about how much care you can realistically provide without harming your own health.
Keep in mind that if you take on too much, you will eventually burn out or develop a serious health condition – ultimately leaving you unable to care for anyone.
Instead, be as proactive as you can and find ways to get the help you need to keep up your health and keep going as a caregiver.
3. Get help with caregiving
Even though it might seem like finding caregiving help takes too much time and effort, remember that it is an investment that will pay off in the future.
Finding help takes patience, effort, and creative thinking, but it will be worth it when you are able to decrease your workload, reduce stress, and take regular breaks.
To help you spot more opportunities for getting help, keep an open mind and be flexible. And be sure to use the list of needs you wrote down to remind you of the types of help you need.
Enroll your older adult in an adult day program – socialization and care for them, much-needed rest for you
Hire in-home caregiving help to get regular breaks
Find a volunteer senior companion program in your area
Use a respite care service to get a longer break
Sign up for a meal delivery service or Meals on Wheels to reduce the number of meals you need to make
Ask family or close friends to help run errands, do some light housekeeping, or prepare some meals
Buy caregiving and household supplies in bulk or better yet, order online for home delivery. Basically, eliminate as many errands as possible to save time and energy.
4. Share the caregiving responsibility
You might be doing such an amazing job that nobody thinks you need any help caring for your older adult.
So even if you feel like you should not have to say it, ask siblings, or close relatives if they’ll take on their share of responsibility so you can take much-needed breaks.
Getting help from family will be different in every situation. For one person, it could be moving mom to the sister’s house for a year.
Another person and their sibling might take turns living with dad for 2 months at a time. In other cases, it could mean having your sister stay at your house for a week every two months so you can get away.
If they are willing to help, be creative and flexible. No solution will be perfect, but any help you can get will lessen the workload for you.
Check out our additional helpful tips on how to ask family to help with caregiving.
5. Reduce financial pressure
Caring for an older adult can also place a significant financial burden on your family.
Reducing caregiving costs as much as possible helps decrease the amount of financial pressure and stress.