Family caregivers, which most of us are likely to become at some point in our lives, have a unique and demanding role and are likely to have their own special set of plans for the new year.
You might have already resolved to lose weight, eat more healthily, or spend more time with family and friends, but have made any resolutions to help you in your role as a caregiver? Listed below are some suggestions that may get you thinking about areas of improvement you can address during 2019.
- Use New Time Management Tools
A common frustration among caregivers (especially Sandwich Generation caregivers) is that there are not enough hours in the day to do everything that needs to be done. Caregivers can try new technologies to help manage their caregiving role. For example, there is an app called CareZone (available for computers, tablets, and smartphones) that can help parents and family caregivers organize files, contacts, and medications, and coordinate with family and other caregivers. You can use this app to keep track of various concerns for your parents like phone numbers, email addresses, medical appointments, medication lists, as well as a general “to-do” list. App technology allows you to keep all this information synced on all your devices.
- Plan with Your Parents
It can be difficult for families and seniors to have discussions about plans for long-term care or end-of-life care. Many people avoid these conversations because the topic can be awkward and emotionally wrenching. But these talks can’t be avoided forever, as aging and mortality cannot be escaped through denial. Make it a goal to overcome the awkwardness and start these tough conversations with your aging parents. For advice about how to start this conversation, and what questions to ask, read our post…10 Essential Questions to Ask Your Aging Parents.
- Get Your Loved One’s Documents in Order
Use 2019 as an opportunity to get your parent’s must-have documents (e.g. marriage certificates, living wills, military records, etc.) in order. You never know when they’ll be needed, but you almost certainly will need them at some point. Procrastination will only make it worse, whereas you’ll find a calming peace of mind knowing that you have essential documents in order.
- Educate Yourself about Long-Term Care Costs
Many Americans fail to plan for, or underestimate, the cost of long-term care for themselves and their loved ones. Often times this failure is due to simple mistakes and misconceptions. Take time to educate yourself about the costs associated with long-term care and learn which insurance covers what care so that you aren’t stuck having to sort it out during an emergency. For example, it should be understood that Medicare is not long-term care insurance and won’t help cover the costs of long-term placement at an assisted living community or nursing home. Remember, as you plan, that the cost of care today is not the cost of care 10 years from now as long-term care costs are growing well above the rate of inflation. If you’re unsure whether your family is financially prepared for an older loved one’s long-term care needs, consider speaking with a professional financial planner.
- Help Your Parent Eat Well
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, millions of Americans are diagnosed with malnutrition each year. Seniors who are having difficulty cooking or shopping, or who have bad eating habits, are especially at risk. Learn about the unique nutritional needs of seniors and ways you can help your older loved one eat well and…enjoy it. This is another area where technology might be able to give you a leg up. If your loved one has a smartphone or iPad, put the free app, MyNetDiary on the device. Or if you are in charge of your parent’s diet, put it on your own device. It allows you to track all aspects of your or your loved one’s diet. MyNetDiary also has special versions designed specifically to help people with diabetes or heart disease eat appropriately.
- Visit a Senior Living Community for a Lunch or Activity
Even if you’re not sure a move is on the horizon or if your loved one has no intentions to move, take some time to visit a senior living community with your parent(s). Try to make it a relaxing visit to get you and your loved one’s “toes wet.” These visits can be genuinely pleasant if you make a point of going to see an interesting event or for a meal. Also, if your parent does eventually move to a community, you will see these preliminary visits that you made months or even years in advance of any particular need, helped to make your loved one more comfortable and at home when a need did finally arise.
- Get to Know Your Parent Better
Indulge your parents’ sense of nostalgia and listen to them tell some weird or wonderful stories about themselves and the history of your family. Even when we’re very close to a loved one, there’s always room to know them better. Think about recording your parent, or using other means to preserve memories of your loved one for future generations. Don’t let Alzheimer’s or dementia keep you from spending quality time with your loved one. Memory loss often jams communication, but this roadblock can often be worked around by learning how to talk with a loved one who has dementia.