If you have an elderly loved one who is nearing the point in life where he or she will need a caregiver to assist with the routine tasks of daily life, you have probably given some thought to lending your assistance to one extent or another. While this is an admirable decision on your part, it is very important that you understand what you are getting into so that you can prepare yourself for the challenges that are ahead of you. It is better to go into the situation with your eyes open so that you do not discover you have committed yourself to more than you are capable of doing. As Socrates said, it is important to “Know thyself.”
Socrates said, “Know thyself.”
Here are some things to take into consideration as you are putting together your plans for this next stage of your life.
How much time will you be expected to give, and how much do you have to give?
Some elderly people will only require minimal assistance from their caregiver. They will need help with things such as going grocery shopping, taking trips to the doctor or other similar matters, and occasional assistance with things such as mowing the lawn or running errands.
Others will require much more time-intensive assistance such as help with preparing their meals, dispensing medication on a daily–or sometimes two or three times per day–basis, or even assistance with seemingly routine tasks such as using the restroom, bathing, and getting dressed.
Avoid getting into a situation where it feels like there is a tug-of-war from multiple sides with you stuck in the middle.
Before you commit to being a caregiver to an elderly loved one, you need to make sure that you know exactly how much help he or she will need and that you are able to commit the necessary amount of time and energy to providing it. You should have conversations with other people in your life who will be affected by this, such as your spouse and/or children. It is important that you have the support of the other people involved in order to avoid getting into a situation where it feels like there is a tug-of-war from multiple sides with you stuck in the middle.
What will the financial cost be, and are you able to meet this cost?
When you become a caregiver to an elderly loved one there will inevitably be some financial costs associated with the decision. This includes actual costs such as the money you will spend on gas for running errands, food, and clothing for your loved one. However, this also includes opportunity costs such as lost wages in the event that you have to miss work or a delayed or even changed career track due to extensive time away from work.
Although these seem like tough questions, they are questions you should answer now, before making a commitment you are unable to keep.
Some caregivers end up quitting their jobs entirely in order to provide full time care for their elderly loved ones. Is this something you are able to do? Is this something that you are willing to do? Although these seem like tough questions, they are questions you should answer now, before making a commitment you are unable to keep.
Being a caregiver for an elderly loved one can be a very rewarding experience. At the same time, it is not without its costs, and you need to honestly evaluate your position before taking the leap so that you do not find yourself in an untenable situation.
You need to honestly consider the demands on both your time and your finances as well as the level of support you will receive from the other people in your life such as your spouse or partner. By having the difficult conversations now, you can at least avoid the requirement of having them later down the road when you have already committed to a specific course of action. Because being a caregiver is a significant commitment which entails a substantial sacrifice on your part, you need to carefully weigh the costs and benefits of the decision and make an honest assessment of your ability to keep your promise before you make it.
Estigarribia, Paige. Things to Consider Before Becoming a Caregiver to Aging Parents. Available at http://www.stretcher.com/stories/15/15sep28e.cfm. Last visited November 14, 2015.