When an aging loved one's health begins to fail, families are confronted by a variety of challenging decisions. Is it safe for grandma to still be driving? Can dad continue to live on his own? Should mom move to assisted living, or hire a home health aide?
Indeed, finding the ideal caregiving situation for an older family member is more stressful than getting a divorce, getting married, buying a new house, or choosing care services for a new baby, according to a recent survey of UK caregivers.
Hundreds of members of the sandwich generation were polled by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), an independent regulator of health and social care in England. A full 84 percent of those surveyed said that finding care for an aging parent, spouse or in-law was either "very" or "quite" stressful.
"I felt like I was firefighting all the time—there were so many practical problems I needed to sort out while living hundreds of miles away," says Naomi, a sandwich generation caregiver, in a case study accompanying the CQC report.
Naomi's father started having significant memory problems in 2010, and her family was faced with the decision of how to best care for him. Even with her husband's support, she still had to cut her working hours in order to find the right help for her father. "It consumed my life for a year and a half and I feel so guilty about the impact it's had on my children…Another layer of guilt is the impact it has on your relationship with your husband," she says.
Getting guidance from other caregivers
When a beloved family member's health suddenly deteriorates, first-time caregivers often feel as though their world has been turned upside down. Finding the best care for an aging loved one can seem like an impossible task.
In these situations, it's helpful to seek counsel from other men and women who've walked in the very same caregiving shoes. A recent poll conducted by AgingCare.com, an online support group for family caregivers, offers insights from veteran caregivers on what to keep in mind during the search for in-home care for a loved one. Here are their top 10 tips:
- "Don't wait!!"
- "Ask for references."
- "Be specific and realistic in your wants and needs."
- "Leave plenty of time to find someone and be prepared to go through several people."
- "Trust your instincts. And don't be afraid to say no if someone doesn't feel like a good fit."
- "Put your expectations in writing so everyone's on the same page."
- "Find someone who's specifically trained to handle the care that your loved one needs."
- "Recognize that it will not be the same as if you cared for your loved one. Manage your expectations. Find someone who is genuine and caring even if you have to go through two or three people to do it."
- "No matter what else, make sure they genuinely care about your loved one. Anything else can be taught but that is essential."
- "Be patient. Loved ones sometimes find in-home care to be an invasion but, hopefully, they will soon see the caregivers as friends/companions."
For more information and strategies on how to find the right home care situation for an aging loved one, download the free eBook "Home is Where the Help Is: A Guide to Hiring and Handling Home Care."