Factors to consider when providing caregiving at home

Caring for a family member at home may mean providing only minimal help, or the individual may require 24-hour assistance.

by David Mitchell — 

Consider these different scenarios: After a hip fracture, your mother has trouble getting around and she never gets back to her old self. The doctors say your father has Alzheimer’s disease. Your aunt decides not to undergo further treatment for her cancer, and she is expected to live only about six months. Your uncle is not eating well and cannot manage his medications; it is no longer safe for him to live on his own.

In each of these cases, who would provide care? One answer many adult children choose is to provide hands-on care for a parent or older family member at home.

Caring for a family member at home may mean providing only minimal help, or the individual may require 24-hour assistance. They may need help with everyday activities like eating and bathing, or they might also require professional nursing or medical care.

In order to stay healthy themselves, caregivers must be able to handle both the practical and emotional aspects of caring. There are a few important factors to consider in reviewing the caregiving situation for an older family member.

Your home — Does your house have enough room for your parent to live in, as well as a wheelchair, walker, hospital bed or bedside toilet, if needed? Is medical care nearby? Would assistive devices such as bathtub grab bars be helpful?

Tasks involved — Is outside help necessary? Does your parent need help walking, bathing or turning in bed?

Time — Do you have the time for caregiving tasks, along with all your other responsibilities?

Support — Will you get financial or hands-on help from other family members? What community support resources are available, such as meal delivery services or respite care?

There are also emotional factors to consider, such as:

The older person’s needs — How much companionship does your parent or older relative want? Is the person sad about the loss of his or her home? How well do you, your parents and other family members get along?

Your family’s needs — How do other members of the family feel about having your parent move in? Will you be able to spend enough time with them?

Your needs — Have you considered the potential downside of caregiving, such as loss of freedom, less time for other activities, lack of control and stress?

Many caregivers report feelings of satisfaction from helping parents or older relatives, even when the job is difficult. However, before deciding whether to provide care for a family member at home, it’s important to consider all these factors and to reassess your situation periodically to see if home care still makes sense.

 

David Mitchell is state director for AARP Arizona. 866-389-5649, 602-262-5165 or www.aarp.org.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 26, Number 2, April/May 2007.

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