What is Caregiving?
Most people think of caregiving as providing hands-on care to a family member, whether by a home care provider or another member of the family. The reality is that caregiving can start slowly or happen suddenly. Either way, these are some tasks that you may not necessarily associate with caregiving and others you will:
- Healthcare advocacy. Advocacy can include doctor’s visits and communication with healthcare providers.
- Picking up prescriptions and groceries.
- Assisting someone with bathing, dressing, transfers, toileting, and medication reminders.
- More and more families are also performing complex medical tasks like catheter changes, blood sugar checks, and injections.
- Providing transportation to medical appointments.
- Companionship and mentally stimulating activities.
Families often fail to notice when there is a decline with an aging parent, and there are many good reasons for this. Seeing changes requires a concerted effort. On the other hand, if you have a client that is a family caregiver, they may not know where to turn for help or how to give up the reins.
- Someone may be a long-distance caregiver and unable to visit in person for that or other reasons.
- An aging parent can be very good at disguising their decline.
- A family caregiver might have a difficult time giving up caregiving duties to someone else.
- Families don’t know where to turn for support.
- Families have not done any advance planning to give them the authority to manage healthcare and finances.
Signs to Look for
Early intervention is almost always better than waiting until there is a greater need. If you have a client who questions whether a parent needs caregiving, encourage them to start a conversation now about care.
It is far easier to convince someone that a little caregiving is a good thing rather than negotiating for several hours a day. Starting low and going slow will have the best results. The warning signs of decline are the following.
- Erratic Driving
If someone is having several accidents or fender benders, this could be a sign of cognitive impairment. There may be no harder thing to do than to confront someone about their driving ability. You might have a client that would rather avoid the subject altogether, but let them know that they do so at their peril. Safety should come first.
Wandering can be a serious problem for people with dementia. The consequences can be catastrophic and deadly.
Frequent falling can be a sign that there are significant mobility and cognitive problems. Falls can result in permanent disability and death.
- Eating and Shopping.
There are several ways to assess whether eating and shopping are areas of concern. The fist is to visit and take a peek in the fridge and the cupboards. If there is spoiling food and the refrigerator and the shelves look bare, this could indicate an issue. Also, advise clients to evaluate whether their family member has lost weight.
- Poor Hygiene
Poor hygiene can be attributed to several things. It could indicate a problem with mobility or memory.
- Medication Mismanagement
Medication mismanagement can be challenging to pick up unless someone can reconcile what someone is taking with what is prescribed. Medication mistakes are due to cognitive disorders, poor eyesight, not understanding directions, and confusing medication systems.
Incontinence is a stressful and time-consuming problem to have. It can also lead to an increase in urinary tract infections.
- Problems with Home Maintenance.
This includes difficulty keeping up with lawn care, and routine, and urgent maintenance tasks. Home safety also means keeping the interior safe and clutter-free. Hoarding can be a serious problem and a significant fall risk.
Advise your families to talk openly, honestly, and respectfully to their loved ones about the need for additional help. Resistance is very common and to be expected.
Solutions to the Need for Caregivers
Family caregiving is the foundation of care in the U.S. However, it takes a toll physically, emotionally, and financially. With no viable government solutions in sight, other alternatives are worth a look.
- In-home caregiving.
For families that can afford it, starting with in-home caregiving can help keep an older adult stable and healthy. That’s why starting at the beginning is better than waiting. Sometimes just a few hours a week is enough to get a handle on things and keep someone from getting worse. If someone has a long term care insurance policy, their daily rate can help offset the cost of care.
- Home Health
If someone qualifies, home health can be a great resource after an illness or accident. Families often combine in-home care with home health to offer the highest level of support.
- Family Care with In-Home Caregivers
A combination of hiring in-home caregivers, along with family caregiving, can be a great solution. In-home caregivers can pick up many tasks providing much-needed relief to family caregivers while minimizing burn out.
Knowing When an Adult Needs Caregiving
Losing independence is hard on everyone. Denial is often the first defense mechanism that an aging adult and their family will use to avoid taking action. It is normal for everyone to wish that things were the same as they always were. Yet, taking early action is the best way to prevent a crisis later on.