By Barbara Clark
Some people are thrust into a caregiving role suddenly after a loved one’s illness or accident. More often though, becoming a caregiver is a gradual process; in either situation you will have a lot of questions: How can I be a caregiver; I know nothing about it? I live in another state, how can I be a caregiver for my parents?
When is it time to start taking more control over a loved one’s life? How will this new responsibility change my life?
Those are just a few of the questions that’ll come up and the answers aren’t always simple and clear. Becoming a caregiver is a process that evolves over time as your situation changes. Outlined below are some useful tips and resources to guide you:
Begin the conversation early – talk with your loved ones about their future care long before they really need it. This may not be an easy conversation to start however it’s a really difficult conversation to have in the middle of a crisis. Find out what their wishes are and discuss the completion of Advance Directives, Power of Attorney, etc.
Consider legal and financial implications – Talk with an elder attorney or geriatric case manager to discuss financial planning for your loved one’s future care.
Find resources for caregivers – Determine your best sources for answering questions about caregiving. There are numerous websites designed to assist caregivers and Central VT Council on Aging offers caregiver workshops.
Get caregiver support – connect with other caregivers through joining a caregiver support group. Central VT Council on Aging has a support group as does Project Independence Adult Day and there are also online groups facilitated by illness/injury specific organizations.
Find help – don’t wait until you’re overwhelmed with caregiving to realize you need help. Start talking to family members and friends to identify how they can share in the caregiving. Check out your local Adult Day program as an option to provide some respite for you and stimulation for your loved one.
Some helpful organizations:
Central VT Council on Aging (www.cvcoa.org)
Family Caregiver Alliance (www.caregiver.org)
The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. There are numerous resources and supports available to assist you with the role of caregiver, including this column.
Project Independence is an adult day health services center with activities designed to promote well-being through social and health related services in a safe, supportive, cheerful environment. For more info, call (802) 476-3630 or visit 81 North Main St., Barre, VT.