By Jody Gastfriend, LICSW, VP of Senior Care Services, Care.com
Millions of adults today are not only raising children of their own, but are taking on the responsibility of caring for their aging parents. Whether it’s the onset of illness, an accident or simply the passage of time, the moment comes and many of us don’t know where to begin. It’s important to remember you are not alone.
According to a 2009 study by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, more than 65 million people in the U.S. provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or aging family member or friend. Making informed decisions about the care of a loved one often requires more time and knowledge than many caregivers have. With the right help and guidance, the journey can be made easier for all involved.
At Care.com, an online resource connecting families and caregivers for senior care, child care, special needs care, pet care, housekeeping and more, we know that taking a proactive approach to caregiving can open up more options, and, should the time come, mitigate a potential family crisis.
Though the adage of caregiving is to “expect the unexpected,” there are steps you can take to prepare more effectively, such as:
- Have conversations early and often. It is important to understand your parents’ preferences as they age and not make assumptions about the type of care they may or may not accept.
- Respect your parents’ autonomy. It is better to start a conversation with an empathic statement such as, “I am worried about you because…” rather than an admonition. “If you continue to live alone, you may fall, break your hip, and end up in a nursing home.”
- Learn about the different types of care and payment options. Many caregivers panic when they realize Medicare won’t pay for long-term care in a nursing home, which on average costs $80,000 per year.
- Resistance is common. Try to introduce support incrementally; for example, a caregiver once a week to clean up, help out, or drive a parent somewhere so it feels comfortable and unobtrusive.
- Seek out expert help. The assistance of a social worker, geriatric care manager, financial advisor or elder law attorney can go a long way in helping guide you through the legal, financial, and emotional challenges of caregiving.
- Take care of yourself. As simple as it sounds, many caregivers skip this important step and burn themselves out. You cannot care for others if you neglect your own needs.
By proactively addressing the logistical tasks of caregiving, you set the stage to enjoy time with your parents as they age and require help. It will be comforting to know that as a result of planning ahead, you were better able to provide the best care possible and more effectively navigate the caregiving journey.
Editor’s note: 50plusnorthwest.com is proud to present our comprehensive guide to caregiving services. How to provide home care for a loved one is a major concern for both boomers and seniors. We hope to answer some of your most pressing questions with this ongoing series. Please check back regularly for updates.
About the Author
Senior Care Expert Jody Gastfriend, VP of Senior Care Services, Care.com, is a licensed clinical social worker with more than 25 years of experience in the field of eldercare.
Jody’s broad range of leadership positions include Director of the Department of Social Services and Case Management at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, Clinical Supervisor within the Social Service Department of Massachusetts General Hospital, Chief Operating Officer of a Medicare-certified visiting nurse association, and Director of Adult Care Services at a national backup care company where she established a successful and expansive eldercare division serving more than 130,000 employees.
Jody shares the personal journey of her clients, having helped manage the care of her own parent with dementia for more than a decade. She has consulted to individuals, professional societies and corporations in the field of eldercare. Additionally, Jody has lectured widely on topics related to aging and work/family balance to audiences that include family caregivers, HR administrators, health care professionals and policymakers. A featured senior care expert on NBC and Fox News, Jody is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post’s Huff/Post50 section, and has published numerous articles on caregiving and aging, including a 5-part series in USA Today.
Jody received her BA, Magna Cum Laude, from Tufts University, and her Masters Degree in Social Work from Simmons College School of Social Work.