Understanding Yourself as a Caregiver


Someone you love needs help and support at home. You may find yourself wondering what you should do. How should you help?

It may be tempting to jump in and do everything it takes. Or you may resist the call to help due to everything else on your plate.

Families today are spread far and wide. If a senior is lucky, he or she will have an adult child or close relative living nearby. All too often, caregiving responsibilities default to the person who is geographically closest to the relative. Is that fair or always appropriate? No, but it happens, and in general, it is easier for the people who are miles away to not shoulder as much of the responsibility.

If an elderly loved ones needs help, what can you do? Hopefully you’re not in a crisis. If you are, you will have to move quickly and make swift decisions. If the situation develops more slowly, but you know what’s coming down the road, don’t procrastinate. Now is the time to plan.

Here are three tips to help you get started:

First, you are being asked to take care of someone else, but that doesn't mean neglecting yourself. You are an important piece of the puzzle. The first step is to acknowledge your strengths and what you’re good at. Is it reasonable or even possible for you to take on the caregiving role? If the answer is yes, great! If the answer is no, that’s okay too. Being honest is critical to setting both you and the other person up for success. If you take on a task that you know you are not suitable for or don’t have the time to do, it will be very stressful for everyone involved.

Second, once you know how much time you can dedicate to caregiving and the role you wish to play, you will need to get a support team around you and put resources in place. If you become the primary caregiver, don’t ignore the fact that you will still need help. No one can or should take care of another person 100% of the time. You will need respite care and a life of your own outside of caring for your loved one. If you are not going to be the primary caregiver, you will need a full complement of people to step in and take on that role for you. You may need professional paid caregivers as well as family and friends to help. Decide for yourself where you can be of the most assistance. Maybe it’s cleaning the house, stocking the freezer with meals, or providing transportation to appointments.

Finally, continue to take care of yourself throughout the caregiving journey. Know when enough is enough and when you need to step away. Sometimes you may need a break for just a few hours, other times it may be a few weeks. Whatever role you take on, do it to the best of your ability and do not let guilt, either your own, or that from other people, enter in your life.

It takes a village to care for someone at home. Care is complex and entails more than just medical needs. Everyone close to the person, including those who live further away, should contribute to the person’s care in equitable ways. It takes effort to make it work but it can be done!

If you're caring for an elderly loved one and you could use some help, Kimbrough Law may be able to assist. Just give our office a call!

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