Family caregivers of elders keep things going every day. They manage their senior loved ones, their appointments, their medications, their family members, their paperwork, and their household among a myriad of other details.
We know how important it is to the health and safety of our senior loved ones to keep all our balls in the air without dropping any but sometimes we have forgotten to care for our own needs – physical and emotional but also our wishes.
As we push ourselves to the limit and beyond in meeting the needs of all who rely on us, we increase our risk of the unthinkable – a heart attack, stroke or other incident that turns us from caregiver to care recipient (hopefully not worse).
What will happen to your senior loved one if something happens to you? Who will take over your responsibilities? Have you put forth your wishes in writing or in conversation with other family members?
10 Ways to Prepare for the Unthinkable
- Who will be with your senior loved one each day if you can’t be?
- Who will be responsible for their finances, their health decisions and their wishes?
- Who will take care of your affairs?
- Who will care for your children if you are caught in the triple decker sandwich of caregiving?
- What happens to your home? Will the mortgage be covered or will it need to be sold?
- Do you have a will? Have you designated an executor to handle your affairs?
- Have you executed your own advance directives or just made sure your senior loved one had his or hers done?
- Are your end of life wishes known and documented? Do you have a DNR or living will in place?
- Who will be your healthcare proxy? Who will take over your healthcare proxy duties for your elder?
- Who will care for the yard, the house, and the safety considerations of your senior loved one’s home?
We all have struggled with the decisions for our seniors, but we also need to be sure that all that plans are fulfilled if you are not there to do it yourself. Certainly that situation is one about which we don’t even want to think, but we owe to those about whom we care to be prepared for the unthinkable.
12 Ways to Care for the Family Caregiver (YOU!)
- Take care of yourself as a caregiver
- Take time to see to your own health, see your doctor regularly for checkups and tune-ups
- Eat right
- Stay physically active
- Relieve your stress – find out what works for you
- Ask for help when you need it
- Join a support group or online community for support
- Enlist family and friends help
- Talk to someone when you are angry or frustrated
- Get respite care through an agency
- Don’t ignore your feelings
- Remember to pat yourself on the back from time to time – you are doing a great job!
One key is to avoid isolating yourself from others close to you by burying yourself in all the tasks you juggle. Chances are someone cares enough about you to intervene in time to protect you from overextending to the point where it harms your health.