As a caregiver, you have a difficult job, but you have resources for support. The most important thing to remember is that it’s OK to ask for help. It’s not selfish to think about yourself in this situation. In fact, you’ll be better able to care for your loved one if you can take care of yourself, too.
Self-Care and Stress Relief when Caring for Older Parents
As a caregiver for elderly parents, you may find yourself frequently stressed out and upset. It can be extremely difficult watching someone who you relied on for strength and support rely on you. Take some time for yourself. Take yoga classes, try aromatherapy, or do other things that bring you happiness. Also, talking to people who understand your situation is a great source of stress relief. You must remember that you aren’t in this alone. Create a support system by joining a support group, visiting a therapist or talking to other family members. Talking with someone who can empathize with your situation can make a huge difference in how you feel.
Federal Caregiver Support Resources
The National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP) is a one-stop resource to find the services you need such as local support groups, disease-specific educational materials, and caregiver advocacy organizations.
There are many types of support groups out there, and the NFCSP website can help you find them. For example, professionals lead certain groups, but peers lead others. Some groups deal with specific conditions such as Alzheimer’s or ALS, while others are for different age groups or genders. You may have to attend several different groups’ meetings or try one more than once before you find a good fit.
NFCSP provides a wealth of educational materials and listings of organizations aimed at supporting people who have specific conditions such as paralysis or Traumatic Brain Injuries. You can find training on how to be a better caregiver, which in turn is a form of self-care. If you can more efficiently care for your loved one, you will make more time for yourself.
You can also find advocacy organizations that can help you or your family member with a broad range of services. NFCSP can help you find assistive medical devices, respite care, veterans’ services, and advocacy groups that help protect both caregivers and the people under their care.
Support for Alzheimer’s Caregivers
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, about 33 percent of adults die with Alzheimer’s or other dementia. Alzheimer’s can be difficult to watch as the disease progresses. You can easily put all your energy towards caring for your loved one and forget about caring for yourself. Alzheimer’s caregiving has three stages: learning, support, and at some point, making decisions on your loved one’s behalf.
Part of self-care for Alzheimer’s caregivers is educating yourself about the disease. You’ll want to learn as much as possible about Alzheimer’s disease as soon as your loved one receives a diagnosis. You will have confidence in the care you provide if you have a strong knowledge base. With Alzheimer’s, it may be even more important to find a support group because your family member may lose his or her memory. You may need help processing the complex emotions you might feel as the disease progresses, and a support system will help you get through a difficult time.
As Alzheimer’s progresses, you’ll need to start making financial, legal and emotional plans for your loved one. That means choosing insurance policies to care for yourself and your family financially, filling out power of attorney forms so you can make legal and medical decisions for the person, and looking for doctors who will best suit you and your family’s needs.
After you’ve made plans regarding the disease and how you and your loved one will live with Alzheimer’s, it’ll be time to think about secondary care providers. At some point, you’ll likely need a break, or you won’t be able to provide the level of care your loved one needs. Look for other family members to help your loved one when you need some time off, or consider hiring a professional caregiver. Then, even though it may be difficult to think about, at some point, your loved one may need to enter a nursing home or hospice care. Do your research to find the best options for your loved one before he or she needs to receive the next level of care.
What to Consider when Looking for an Assisted Living Facility
You'll feel more at ease if you trust that your loved one is in good hands. Care for yourself and your peace of mind by considering your own needs along with your loved one’s needs when you search for assisted living facilities. Every assisted living facility is different. Some only offer limited services and look more like retirement communities than assisted living facilities, while others offer a complete list of services ranging from bathing and dressing to providing meals. Some other facilities provide a full transition from limited support to 24-hour care to hospice care. A good place to start is looking into your family member’s health insurance policy to see what’s covered.
The next step in selecting a home for your family member is outlining each facility’s pros and cons. Start by reading reviews and recommendations and crossing off the poorly-rated facilities. Then, list the benefits each facility offers. You may find that some facilities don’t provide enough services, or that some offer a lot of services you don’t need. Cross the facilities that don’t fit your needs off your list.
After you’ve narrowed down your choices to a few facilities, it’s time to gather information from the facilities themselves. Look at the facility’s website or ask for brochures, price lists, resident rules, visitation policies and information about building security. Then tour the facility to really get a feel for it. Ask yourself if the residents look happy and if the staff enjoy their jobs. The final step before you move your loved one in is to have an attorney look over the contract with you.
Power of Attorney and Medicare
Caring for a loved one can be costly, and the right health insurance policy can help pay for many of the expenses you may encounter. Financial stress doesn’t have to be part of your life as a caregiver. Medicare is a great financial resource for covering healthcare costs. Depending on your plan, Medicare can help pay for long-term care, assisted living facilities or durable medical equipment. Certain private health insurance plans called Medicare Advantage will even help cover unexpected services such as meal delivery or transportation to doctor’s appointments.
Your parent likely qualifies for Medicare insurance, and if you need to start making health decisions alongside your parent, you’ll need legal documents granting that power. When it comes to making healthcare decisions, you need a Durable Power of Attorney because that is the only POA that authorizes you to make medical decisions with your parent before he or she becomes incapacitated. A medical power of attorney only allows you to have power after your parent becomes incapacitated.
Legal Support for Working Caregivers
As a caregiver, you have certain employment rights. For example, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) grants you up to 12 weeks per year to take time off work to care for qualifying family immediate family members. However, you and your employer must meet certain criteria in order for FMLA to apply. You must meet a certain number of work hours, and your employer must have at least 50 employees. You will return to the same or an equivalent position if you qualify for FMLA, and your employer cannot discriminate or retaliate. If you think your employer violated FMLA, enlist a lawyer’s help.
Let Medicare Plan Finder Help
Caregivers do extremely important work, but you can’t do it all. Sometimes you need some extra help when selecting the best healthcare or life insurance plans for your loved one. The highly trained agents at MedicarePlanFinder.com can help you find a plan. Call 833-438-3676 or visit their website to learn more.
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