by Lora Felger
The added responsibility of caregiving for a loved one can compound your stress emotionally, mentally and physically. Some people may not be fully prepared for this role until it happens. Caregivers often become responsible for medical costs, monitoring medications, paying bills and providing custodial care such as bathing, dressing and eating. This new relationship dynamic and the sudden change to daily life can create wear and tear on the body and mind. In fact, many caregivers prioritize the needs of others and forget to take care of themselves.
It’s a lot to take on, and no individual should ever feel alone in their caregiving journey. We have listed resources that are available to help. You may have heard about some of these resources, but never imagined needing them. These suggestions will help you get started in taking care of your own needs, while you provide the necessary, tender care your loved one needs from you.
Build a team.
The key to successful caregiving is to build a team around you that can help you when the road gets rough. Here are some insightful tips:
- Communicate honestly with your family and friends about the challenges you face and ask them for help when you need it. Someone may be experiencing similar challenges. A conversation over coffee or the phone about what you’re facing with someone who has been there could be the extra boost you need.
- Your health plan can be a valuable teammate by providing benefits that can help you integrate healthy measures into your day. Services like online mental health counseling and health coaching encourage you to keep up with your own health needs so that you can provide the best care for your loved one.
- If you find yourself overwhelmed while navigating through the intricacies of caregiving, ask your health plan for a care coordinator to help guide you through your journey with doctors, health systems and other ancillary health services.
- Caregivers are often responsible for coordinating with insurance or even choosing an insurance or Medicare plan in the first place. Many Medicare insurance providers offer education about the different Medicare options and will help you find the right plan for your loved one’s needs.
- If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, there may be free perks available to help you, such as companionship benefits. With this service, you can get access to companions who can help with a variety of tasks like spending time with your loved one, light housework, grocery shopping and more. Other benefits that can ease your caregiving burden may include meal delivery and transportation to medical visits.
Collect information on local resources.
- Ask your health plan if they have a community outreach liaison working in your community who can offer you help in navigating to the resources you need. A simple phone call to your plan’s member services number on the back of your ID card will get the ball rolling.
- Each state has a State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). SHIP provides free counseling services for seniors and pre-retirees and can answer questions about Medicare, Medicare plans and financial assistance.
- Your local Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease organizations offer caregiver support groups both in person and online.
- Your Area Agency on Aging will also offer you good materials in support of the caregiving role. They can offer you referrals to organizations like respite care groups that come into the home and give you a break for an afternoon to get your hair done or go on a weekend trip out of town to recharge your mind and body.
- Consider an Adult Day program that gives your loved one a change of scenery and you the chance to run errands or take care of your own personal needs.
- Most medium- to large-sized communities offer special expos and health fairs that highlight the resources available in your community to support your caregiving efforts.
- Online communities like the Family Caregiver Alliance offer valuable resources and connections with other caregivers in a variety of languages.
- The Caregiver Action Network boasts an online chat option through their Caregiver Help Desk.
- The daily email group, AgingCare Caregiver Forum, has daily FAQs submitted by people living through the same kinds of situations.
- The national Alzheimer’s Association and American Parkinson’s Disease Association offer a wide variety of helpful tips and online programming that you can access any time. It’s important to note that the Alzheimer’s Association provides resources for all kinds of dementias, not just the specific diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.
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