When to Hire a Caregiver
When taking on the role of caregiver for your parent or aging loved one, it's easy to get over your head by taking on too many new tasks or by taking on responsibilities you're not prepared or trained for.
Are you struggling with your caregiving duties now that your senior loved one needs extra help? Lending a hand with care or tasks is a wonderful way to assure your loved one can live safely at home, but your other personal and professional obligations can make your daily schedule feel jam packed. You may even have your senior loved one living with you, which can offer the opportunity to provide more care; it can also be a huge change in your daily life.
When helping with weekly grocery trips and daily medication checks on your way home from work, or if you are providing more extensive care in your home, it is easy to become overwhelmed and wonder when to look for help. You may be wondering if you can continue giving care as your loved one’s needs increase, or if you can emotionally continue in a sole caregiver role. It is okay and valid to feel this way, and you could be saving yourself and your loved one from serious negative consequences if you do decide to bring in a professional caregiver.
First and foremost, if you are feeling overwhelmed, depressed, exhausted, or even anxious, you could be living with caregiver burnout. This condition is common among unpaid and paid family caregivers and recently was named as a public health issue by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Without proper support and relief, caregiver burnout can cause significant physical and emotional damage.
If you are wondering if now is the time you should enlist the help of a professional caregiver, here are just a few things you should consider.
Is your living situation keeping you from work tasks?
Most family caregivers are also working fulltime jobs outside of the home. If you are helping out your loved one who is living at your home, or on their own, and you still go to your job daily, you might consider if your work is suffering due to your caregiving duties. If so, it could be time to bring in relief in the form of a professional caregiver.
While many fulltime employees do have the option of taking time off through the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the time is often unpaid. Further, your employer is only bound to keep your position available for a total of 12 weeks each year. Make time to talk to your Human Resources team at work to learn more about FMLA options that could suit your situation and give you time away from work to care for your loved one.
Another way to determine if your caregiving tasks are negatively affecting your job is to assess if you are declining assignments or even promotions so that you can care for your loved one. While this is a noble thing to do, and one that you are likely happy to do for your aging loved one, it can cause potential resentment for your situation to arise at a later time.
Do your caregiving tasks keep you from doing hobbies that you love?
Have you skipped your Book Club meet-ups so that you can rush home after work to make sure your loved one takes their medications on time? Or, have you declined an invitation to spend a weekend with a friend because you are nervous to leave your loved one at home alone? If so, you may want to consider calling in the reinforcements, professional caregivers.
Your hobbies and recreational pursuits are more than just things you do in your spare time. These are activities and friendships that keep you feeling connected and encouraged. Without these meaningful moments in your life, you are at an increased risk for depression or anxiety.
Are there other family members in the area who can help?
Your senior loved one may be living near you, but that doesn’t mean you have to be the sole caregiver. If you have other family members, such as siblings or close relatives, nearby, you should feel able to ask them for help with tasks and duties. Ask your brother to take your mom to her next dentist appointment or ask your granddaughter to play cards with your dad after school a few days per week. Family members who live far away may not be able to help with hands on tasks but can still be supportive. Ask your sister to find out what she can about your mom’s new diagnosis or ask your nephew to send your dad’s favorite crossword puzzle books in the mail.
If you are not able to source help from family members or friends, professional caregivers can stand in the gap and provide quality care that gives you a break.
When is the last time you took time away from the home?
For many caregivers who care for their senior loved one in small or large ways, a weekend away, a business trip, or a week-long vacation can seem impossible. However, getting out of the house is a crucial step for positive mental and physical health. If you haven’t gotten out of the home for a quick trip in the past 6 months, it is time to find a professional caregiver who can give you that relief so you can go.
Even more importantly, you should focus on a regular weekly schedule of time away from your caregiving duties. This time away could include an hour at your favorite coffee shop or catching a movie. Professional caregiver services offer this type of respite care, and you should have it regularly occurring on your family calendar.
Are you feeling angry at your loved one?
A good indicator that you need to find some relief through a professional caregiver is if you are feeling angry at your aging parent or loved one. Unfortunately, many cases of senior abuse and neglect come from frustrated or overwhelmed family caregivers. Feelings of anger or resentment on your end should be taken seriously, and should be an indicator that you do need to seek some help with a professional caregiver.
If you are feeling angry during care, get your loved one to a safe position and then walk away. Breathe deeply in and out while counting to 20. Then, return to the situation if you are feeling calmer.
Are you unable to manage certain caregiving tasks?
As your loved one continues to have medical challenges that come from chronic conditions, you may be unable to safely handle the increased responsibility. If your loved one is on a difficult to manage medication schedule, or if you are uncomfortable with wound dressing changes or flushing a feeding tube, you can get that help with a visiting nurse service. When you don’t have those extra heavy responsibilities, you can feel less overwhelmed with your situation.
Is your loved one getting out of the house?
If your loved one is not getting out of the house to connect with friends or attend favorite activities, you are both missing the relief of seeing new faces and experiencing time away from one another. Look at your local senior center activity calendar or sign your loved one up for a class at the park district or library. You can work to arrange transportation, or you can utilize a professional caregiver to take your loved one to the event for you, making an entire afternoon of it.
Do you know resources available to you?
Did you know that services like Meals on Wheels can be applicable to seniors who are living at home? Local resources, including visiting nurse services and meal delivery, may apply to your situation and even be covered under Medicare or your loved one’s insurance. Using these local resources can lessen your load and even increase your loved one’s quality of life by giving them new visitors to become friends with.
To start your search for senior resources in your area, call your town’s senior services department. They can steer you toward senior center or other agencies that can help you set up services your loved one can receive.
Professional caregivers can give you the peace of mind to leave your home for a weekend or for an hour and can give your loved one the care they need to lessen your load. These services can preserve your relationship with your loved one, and can alleviate some stress or negative consequences of your caregiving role.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Kimberly-Clark Corporation. (2008). Assuring healthy caregivers: A public health approach to translating research into practice. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/aging/pdf/caregiving_monograph.pdf