China took a unique route in 2012 to ensure that adult children do not neglect their aging parents. The country passed a law making visits to parents mandatory, under threat of being sued by them. In America, however, we can still enjoy creating our own home care solutions, whether for aging parents, an infirm spouse, ill child, or any other situation that leads to a loved one at home – yours or their own – and in need of care.
In the case of caring for an aging parent, Barry J. Jacobs, a clinical psychologist, offered three strategies in a July 2013 column for AARP. He advised a woman caring for her father, a man reluctant to accept help, to first empower him by stressing that she wants to help him live independently, not eliminate that independence. Jacobs’ second suggestion is that the daughter emphasize to her father that helping to care for him is, in a sense, an experience that she can use to grow spiritually and personally. Third, the daughter should make it clear that her father is still a role model, one who now has a responsibility of showing her how to age gracefully.
This particular situation helps to illustrate that there may be many layers of transition in caring for a loved one. With caregiver stress being a real danger, there’s a pressing call to manage foreseeable variables. Take time to chart out the situation as it is, what it’s likely to become, and what resources are available.
First, is the person needing care in a safe environment? Whether in your home or his own, are surroundings suited to him? Are walkways clear and well lit? Is there easy access to a cell phone with a programmed emergency number or a medical alert? There are checklists readily available for assessing home safety.
Next, think about the future. Make plans for failing health, for emergencies. Have steps in mind before situations arise as a way to minimize stress for all involved.
A third, critical step is taking stock of all the resources available. What insurance benefits factor in? What resources of your own might be used? If there are other family members and friends who can help with home care, find out what they can contribute, whether in time or money, and get a commitment. Within the community, are there services designed to help either the person needing care or the caregivers? While some services may be offered at no cost, consider investing in home-aide services, which may be covered by long-term insurance. An aide who is a certified nursing assistant, available on an hourly basis, provides not only respite for a caregiver, but also has the training to help assess the overall well-being of the person being cared for.
People can be adaptable to a fault, accepting situations that are far worse than they need to be. With a rational plan, care giving can actually be a rich experience for all, not a burden that breeds resentment.