As their loved ones grow older and begin to experience the decline in health that aging can bring, many adult children often find themselves transitioning from their role as the child into the role of the caregiver. Sometimes this is a gradual transition; in the beginning they are simply helping out with some everyday tasks until their parents’ healthcare needs change or progress. Other times, a sudden illness brings about the need to fulfill a caregiving role. No matter how you find yourself becoming a caregiver for your elders, the journey you’ll face is similar.
While caregiving can bring great joy to both the recipient and the caregiver alike, each caregiver will experience distinctive issues and concerns throughout their journey. Learning about the road ahead of you can help you prepare for the future, as well as allow you to provide the best care possible to your loved one.
Researchers have identified four common stages of caregiving, which you can use as guide for what to expect when you find yourself becoming a senior caregiver:
Stage one – Accepting your role as caregiver. In this stage, you’ve already noticed a decline in your loved one’s health or have already begun some caregiving duties. It’s important to recognize and accept that you have become the primary caregiver, and it’s now time to start educating yourself. Learn as much as you can about your loved one’s condition, discuss legal issues and future wishes.
Stage two – Finding support for caregiving duties. As you become more and more involved in caregiving duties, it’s time to start accepting help from other family members or healthcare professionals. Joining a caregiver support group through a local senior community or church is a priority at this stage, as your own health may begin to suffer from your caregiving role. Begin exploring other options for care, whether it’s researching assisted living communities or finding in home care.
Stage three – Preventing caregiver burnout. Caregivers often find themselves entrenched in their caregiving duties, which leads to caregiver stress or burnout. Watching your loved one’s health declining further and becoming more involved in caregiving can take a toll on you physically, mentally and emotionally. It’s time to actively look for assistance or caregiver help as you can no longer provide the care your loved one needs to enjoy a good quality of life.
Stage four – The end of your journey. In this stage, your role as a caregiver has come to an end. It’s time to finalize the end of life plans you created with your loved one, transitioning them fully into an assisted living community, skilled nursing facility, or hospice. Let yourself grieve and reflect back on the journey you shared with your loved one.
Throughout your caregiving journey, it’s important to take time to attend to your own life and healthcare needs. This is where respite care services become vital. Respite care provides caregiver help, allowing you a break from your caregiving duties and a chance to buy groceries, go to doctor’s appointments, or have a relaxing lunch with a friend. Your aging loved one will be in good hands, getting the right amount of care they need for a comfortable stay.