As Moms, we take care of our young ones making sure tummies are fed, scrapes are kissed and bandaged, and they have our full attention to their every need. I always thought these loving gestures were saved only for my kids; however, over the last year, I’ve learned that those nurturing skills can quickly transfer over to caring for one’s parents. Requiring many moms, like myself, to take on double duty caring for a parent or relative while raising a growing family as a family caregiver.
Within the last two years, my dad went through surgeries that required at home care and recovery. Through each brief episode of caring for my dad in our home I learned that many mothers as myself are doing the same but in a longer-term capacity in addition to raising their own family and/or working a full-time job.
According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, 48% of caregivers are between the ages of 18-49 years while the average age of a family caregiver is 49.2 years. Also, 75% of all caregivers are female. Meaning that many long-term or short-term family caregivers look like me – 40-something, a working mother, raising young children.
I adore my dad and am grateful for the opportunity to help him get stronger after each surgery, but I’ve learned that being a family caregiver while at the same time raising a family is hard work. I applaud the women and men out there who are juggling the responsibilities of lovingly nurturing their parent or family member while at the same time raising their own growing family.
If you’ve found yourself in the same situation or thought about how you would care for your loved one, here are a few useful tips that I’ve learned along my journey with my dad.
Eight Helpful Tips for the Family Caregiver:
1. Re-familiarizing Yourself With Your Home
Caring for a family member in your home automatically leads you to re-familiarizing yourself with the layout and flow of your home. We want our loved ones to feel comfortable in our cozy spaces while also being safe. Those stacks of magazines or books, loose cords, wobbly chairs or slippery rugs can be an unseen danger leading to spills or falls. Walk around your house and check those corners or rooms that might hinder movement or even become a hazard. If you have school-age children or teens, like myself, enlist their help to move a few things around. Kids can definitely have a role in helping to care for a relative.
2. Asking for Help While Still Feeling In Control
Asking for help can be hard at times. As mothers in this day and age, we are lead to believe that we must juggle it all on our own. However, being a proactive family caregiver means that you know your limitations and you actively seek help. Gathering your team of family members, friends and neighbors to take on those daily tasks (i.e. carpool rides, meals, pet-sitting, grocery runs, kids drop-offs, etc.) aids in the process of care for a parent or relative. Building your trusted care team is essential.
Home Care Assist, a user-friendly online compatibility matching service for in-home care, is giving family caregivers the support and control of finding ways to address their needs as a caregiver and the needs of their loved ones. Home Care Assist connects careseekers (aka family caregivers) with private-duty caregivers based on personal interests to provide in-home elder care, rehab assistance, and even new parent support. This personalized option of in-home care leads family caregivers to feel better equipped to seek that extra help while at the same time feeling in control of their loved one’s care.
3. Properly Prep for the Mornings
Mornings in our home fly by lightning fast! Kids get fed, notebooks & lunches get packed, notes are signed, and kids are out the door all before 8:30 a.m. While caring for my dad, learning to properly prep before the morning rush was a game changer in our house. Waking up thirty minutes earlier to prepare breakfast, laying out my dad’s essentials (i.e. medications, water bottles, ice packs, etc.) and prep for the day was what started our busy days on a better footing.
Also, including my father in our morning routine and having his breakfast ready while the kids were moving around gave him a little boost of energy to start his day. As a family caregiver, whatever extra time you can provide in advance to prep for the day will give you some peace of mind before your juggling begins.
4. Daily Goal-Setting and Planning Ahead
Our family worked hard to celebrate each goal my dad would meet in his stages of recovery while in our home. It was important for my dad to leave our home strong and ready to return to his own house and routine.
Each day we would set a goal that he wanted to accomplish (i.e. practice walking up and down the stairs, folding clothes, making a meal, getting in and out of his car, etc.) Daily goals and even reminders gave him an opportunity to gauge his recovery and empowered him to move onto the next target. As a short-term family caregiver, I learned it was important to take note of those things he would need when he returned to his own home. How would he grocery shop, would he be able to move around his house unassisted, etc.?
If your loved one isn’t quite ready for a full day on their own once they are ready to return home, a resource such as Home Care Assist can work with you to make sure loved ones are safe and cared for when returning to routine. Home Care Assist offers family caregivers trusted in-home care solutions for loved ones when they want to return to their homes. Their vetted and qualified caregivers offer personalized care to meet supplemental needs, and the company’s compatibility matching process is a first in the in-home care industry.
Meal-planning for a busy family even without supporting another family member can be tricky at times. Chopping, prepping, marinating – that all takes time that sometimes as a family caregiver you may not have on a daily basis. However, you can still find ways to put nutritious and delicious food on the table without a huge fuss.
Plan ahead for one or two crockpot meals during the week and a cheat day to order out for a family meal. Get creative and visit your neighborhood grocery store and pick up the hot and ready family meal special for that day. Local restaurants offer affordable carry-out Family Meal Deals during the week that you can take advantage of, too. There are also many online meal providers or delivery services (i.e. Hello Fresh, Supper Meals, Donovan’s Dish, Blue Apron, etc.) that will send you quick and pre-assembled meals using fresh ingredients still letting you put a home cooked meal on the table.
Don’t forget that it is okay to ask friends and family to send over a meal or two. You’ll be surprised how many people will want to help once you give them some direction.
6. Keep Your Family Schedule
Practices, tryouts, school events … every evening we are locked into something. Sometimes as moms, we have to balance it all even if we aren’t caring for a family member. During this time with my dad, I had to learn that keeping our schedule was essential to our routine and still gave us our regularly chaotic normalcy that my dad was accustomed to seeing.
Planning and asking for help from neighbors, family members and friends to take on carpool duties was helpful to keeping our family schedule. Although, the makeup of our house had changed for a short-term our usual family routine was still able to stay the same.
7. Practicing Self-Care and Stepping Away
Whether you are a long-term or short-term family caregiver, caring for a parent, relative or a child with special needs, practicing self-care is dire to your work. As mothers, we learn that when we better care for ourselves it leads to better care of our family.
Give yourself permission to plan a moment(s) in the day when you can re-energize yourself through working out, reading, meditation, catching up on Netflix, journaling, DIYing, etc. Even a planned game time with the kids can be a fun distraction, plus it teaches our children the importance of self-care during those times when responsibilities can be overwhelming.
Sometimes family caregivers need more than a few moments away and might require respite care. Home Care Assist can be a valuable partner to help a family caregiver take a much needed break – for a few hours or a few days. It’s OK to step away while a trusted, private- duty caregiver takes on those daily duties, and it doesn’t have to break the bank. It can be hard to hand over the reins, but remember that professional caregivers may end up providing even better care than what family caregivers are equipped to do, which is a win-win – family caregivers gain peace of mind while taking a well-deserved break, and the care recipient receives top-notch care.
8. Reaching Out to Other Caregivers
Statistics show that the majority (85%) of Family Caregivers are taking care of a family member. There are many mothers in our community, like you and me, that have or are experiencing caring for a loved one in their home. Sharing this commonality to talk about my journey as a short-term family caregiver with women in my circle gave me peace of mind and also ideas of how to better support my dad’s journey through recovery.
November is National Family Caregivers Month which recognizes and honors the work of family caregivers. This year’s theme is “Care Giving Around the Clock” showing support for caregivers who work hard to provide non-stop care in addition to handling other daily responsibilities outside of caregiving. Home Care Assist understands the everyday challenges a family member can take on when caring for a loved one. Their affordable compatibility matching service for in-home care allows for family caregivers to digitally connect with trusted and qualified caregivers to assist in some or all of those round-the-clock duties. Visit the company’s website ( www.homecareassist.com ) to find a professional, private-duty caregiver or learn more about how the service can benefit your family.