Are you one of the over 41 million Americans undertaking informal care for an older adult, often referred to as a family caregiver? Whether you opted for in-home care because your aging family member will not consider assisted living or if you and your loved one(s) have come to the decision together, here you are.
You may recall from our women’s initiative article last month that, according to AARP, 87 percent of adults over the age of 65 want to stay in their current home and community as they age. Add in the COVID-19 pandemic, and keeping your loved ones in their own home may make even more sense for your family.
It’s important to remember that senior caregiving could end up being one of the most challenging and demanding jobs you’ll ever have. Often, this form of care impacts women disproportionately. According to a National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP study, an estimated 60 percent of family caregivers are female. Even though men also serve in this role, women spend more hours caregiving on average than men.
It’s beautiful to honor your loved one’s wishes to age in place. So to help you manage your role as a family caregiver, here are eight simple tips that can make a significant impact in your caregiving journey.
1. Create a caregiver notebook – This can be as simple as pen and paper. However, phone apps like Evernote and Caring Village may also be a good choice for those who prefer a digital option. Benefits of a notebook include organization of essential information in one place, such as:
- Portable and up-to-date medication list, along with what the medicine is for or supposed to do
- Scanned copies of medical results and medical records
- Notes from and for doctor visits, action items, or next steps
- Calendar of meal help
- Emergency plan for situations such as a hurricane or power outage
2. Consider an adult day program – These programs help provide socialization for the senior and much-needed rest for the caregiver.
3. Look into respite care – Respite care provides short-term relief for caregivers. It can be arranged for just an afternoon or several weeks if the caregiver needs to travel. Organizations with respite programs include: Alzheimer’s Association, Veterans Administration, and National Family Caregiver Support Program.
4. Provide the ability for your loved one to participate in video chats with friends and family – Social isolation and depression can be a concern for older adults who opt for in-home care. Video chats are a proven way to promote social wellbeing for your loved one, even if they can’t visit with family and friends in person.
5. Purchase a wearable medical alert device – The technology on these devices has come a long way and are available in a variety of options from watches and clip-on devices to jewelry like necklaces and bracelets. They can be fashionable and functional while offering caregivers peace of mind when they can’t be with their loved one.
6. Plan for sudden illness or incapacitation – Be prepared in the event that a senior may become ill and unable to speak suddenly. They’ll need to give a trusted caregiver permission to discuss their healthcare with a physician and make necessary decisions.
7. Look into tax credits or deductions to reduce the financial burden – As a caregiver, you may be able to get state or federal tax credits or take tax deductions for caregiving expenses, especially if you claim your older adult as a dependent.
8. If affordable and possible, hire in-home caregiving help regularly – In-home caregiving help can significantly reduce the stress on family caregivers, but be sure to vet the organizations first. Here are some questions to ask before hiring an in-home caregiver:
- Are they licensed?
- Are they insured?
- What are their costs and fees?
- Is the in-home caregiving certified by Medicare? According to Medicare.gov, if your loved one has Medicare A or B, they may have some benefits covering in-home care for services related to illness or injury. Skilled nursing and therapy services may be covered as long as under a doctor’s care, and there is a plan of care that a physician has created. Their doctor needs to certify the need for intermittent skilled nursing care or therapy, and the person covered is homebound. These benefits will likely cover up to a specific number of hours per week.
As the saying goes, “home is where the heart is.” Allowing your loved one to remain in their home as they age can give them a sense of comfort and security, adding to their quality of life.
 National Alliance for Caregiving and the AARP Public Policy Institute. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S.