I live about six hours from my mother. I have four brothers and sisters who live closer. A sister who lives 30 minutes away and two brothers and another sister who each live about 90 minutes away. I started wondering how we could combine our efforts to help my mother before the time comes when a professional elderly adult caregiver is required. This question lead to another one “Am I the right person to be providing care?” As an elderly adult caregiver, it is important to know your strengths and weaknesses and set limits to what you can realistically do.
When thinking about your strengths, consider what you are particularly good at and how those skills might help in the current situation. Some sample questions to ask your self are:
- Am I good at finding information, keeping people up to date on changing conditions and offering cheer whether on the phone or with a computer?
- Am I good at supervising and leading others?
- Am I comfortable speaking with medical staff and interpreting what they say to others?
- Is my strong suit doing numbers or paying bills, keeping track of bank statements, and reviewing policies and reimbursement reports?
- Am I the one in the family who can fix anything while no one else knows the difference between a set of pliers and a wrench?
- If not me, then who in the family has skills at each of these and are they willing to help?
When reflecting on your limits, consider the following:
- How often, both mentally and financially can you afford to travel (if long distance) or visit if you are local?
- Are you emotionally prepared to take on what may feel like a reversal of roles between you and your parent – taking care of your parent instead of them taking care of you?
- Can you continue to respect your parent’s independence?
- How will your decision to take on elderly adult caregiving responsibilities affect your work and home life?
Some families hire a geriatric care manager to evaluate and assess a parent’s needs and to coordinate care through community resources. If you elect to go this route be sure to hire only a licensed geriatric care manager. There are national associations that can help you find licensed care managers.
In a DIY kind of mode, my brothers, sisters and I developed a plan that seems to be working. We all visit with my mom on a more frequent basis and we each try to call her at least once a week. Part of our calls and visits include the questions “how can we help you?” and “what do you need?” We now find that our visits are much more helpful to our mom and produce benefits including completing home maintenance projects, helping with shopping, taking her to doctor appointments or just talking about books, movies or sports. I do believe that we are all benefitting from this approach.