Juggling the responsibilities of a career and family in addition to caring for an elderly parent can be overwhelming for most people. It’s estimated that 83% of caregivers for the ill, elderly, or disabled, are unpaid family members and that over 20% of American households are affected by caregiving responsibilities. Typically, caregivers provide over 20 hours of care for their loved ones, in addition to working and caring for their own families. If you are one of these caregivers and considering alternative home care and respite care options, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Is it time for Professional Home Care?
Your responsibilities as caregiver may vary based on the needs of your elderly parent. You may just be visiting for 1-2 hours each day to make sure everything is in order, checking in more often to assist with chores and errands, or your parent may be entirely dependent upon you for assistance with daily activities.
There are several areas of concern in your parent’s health which may indicate the need for full-time assistance or professional nursing care:
- Recent hospitalization or diagnosis of illness
- Frequent falls or difficulty walking and sitting up
- Deterioration of personal hygiene and living conditions
- Poor eating habits and weight loss
- Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
- Decrease in vision
- Inability to manage household chores and medications
While your parent may appear in good health and require minimal supervision or assistance now, s/he is at increased risk for falls as s/he ages. Additionally, declines in health and the onset of serious conditions like dementia are gradual and the absence of proper care and monitoring can lead to serious injury.
Options for Family Caregivers
In addition to the medical necessity for round-the-clock or part-time home care, it may be advisable to pursue additional care for your own well-being. The stresses of being the sole caregiver for a parent, while managing your own household, can cause anxiety and lead to caregiver burnout. The good news is that you have options in providing compassionate and attentive care for your loved one.
As a family caregiver for an elderly parent in relatively good health, you may not require full-time home care and can continue providing care through various channels.
Adult Day Care – These centers are designed to help seniors avoid isolation during the day time with group activities and meals.
Non-Medical Attendants – Many home care agencies offer part-time help with basic household chores, errands, and meal preparation in the form of non-medical attendants. These attendants act as you would, providing companionship and assistance with daily activities as needed.
Community Companions – For seniors in excellent health who are seeking companionship when you are unavailable, many communities, churches and temples, and organizations have volunteers who are able to spend time with your loved one. While these volunteers generally do not provide assistance in a medical sense, they are an important asset in helping your loved one retain his or her independence and avoid feelings of loneliness and isolation.
If your loved one has reached the point of requiring additional care due to illness or fragility, you have options as well. Home care agencies provide support in varying degrees, from part-time registered nurses to full-time home health aides, and live-in support. Home care makes the transition easier for you and your parent by allowing him or her to remain in the comfort and safety of their home and allowing you to remain involved in their care. If you have decided to act as caregiver on a full-time basis and feel you are able to care for your parent medically and physically, consider respite care options to allow yourself a break when needed. Respite care is available in the form of home care or at a residential facility on a temporary basis to allow you relief from the stresses of caregiving.