Maybe your mom is forgetting things just a little too often. Maybe Dad has received a worrying diagnosis. Maybe you and your siblings have noticed that your elderly parent can’t quite seem to keep up with all the tasks of daily life. And so, you’ve made the decision to ramp up your caregiving efforts. Here are some things to consider as you start — and continue — the caregiving journey.
Caring for a senior with multiple needs is challenging. Trying to go it alone is a recipe for stress and burnout. Instead, use the CareEasy app to create a Circle of Care to share the responsibilities and duties. Once you’ve downloaded the app and created an account, you can create a Circle of Care and invite family members to participate. All each member needs is an email address and a smartphone. You can invite caregivers already in your contact list, or by typing in their email address. CareEasy will let invitees know about the request, and give them a brief overview of how the app works.
Your Circle of Care might consist of:
- Family: You and your siblings, as well as your spouses or partners — and even your children if they’re old enough to help out. Cousins, aunts and uncles may also be able to pitch in.
- Friends and neighbours are often willing to help out, especially with errands and practical tasks, like mowing the lawn, bringing over an occasional meal, or spending a couple of hours with your mom or dad while you take a break. If your parent is part of a faith community, members of their church, synagogue, or mosque may be happy to volunteer to help out.
- Professional caregivers, like in-home nursing and healthcare aides
- Community services like Meals on Wheels or adult day-care or Alzheimer’s programs for seniors with dementia
- Other professionals like housecleaners, dog-walkers, or landscaping companies
- Members of your mom or dad’s healthcare team: doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, and other therapists. Make sure that everyone on the team knows who these people are and how to contact them.
Once you’ve identified team members, figure out who’s in charge. Your team needs a captain: someone who deeply understands the plans and priorities, and can keep things moving along. In families, that’s often the sibling who lives closest to the parent, who has the closest relationship, or who has the time and willingness to take on the role.
Of course, bringing together family members in a high-stress context raises the potential for conflict. Siblings may disagree about the level of care a parent needs, the best course of action, how much money is available to spend on care, and any number of other concerns. It can be helpful to talk about what to do when conflicts arise and to engage a neutral third party, like a social worker, counsellor, or mediator to keep the team focused and communicating productively.
Make a plan
With your team in place, you can start to plan, for both the short and the long term.
Short-term planning includes understanding how much help your mom or dad needs, right now, to get through the activities of each day, and who will be responsible for providing that help.
- In some cases, they may need only a bit of help with occasional grocery shopping, heavy-duty cleaning or yard work jobs, or transportation. It may be fairly easy to divide up these tasks amongst team members. The CareEasy lets you create tasks for each team member, as well as track expenses associated with a parent’s care.
- Further along the care spectrum, your mom or dad may need or welcome help with cooking or preparing meals, housekeeping and running errands, managing money and paying bills, or remembering to take medications. These kinds of activities are known as instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs).
- At the other end of the spectrum, a parent may need help with more intimate activities of daily living (ADLs), which include essentials like feeding, getting in and out of bed, dressing, bathing, and toileting. These may be more challenging for the first-time caregiver to handle.
To determine those needs, can help to create a day by day, hour by hour schedule of your parent’s activities. To make it easy for your Circle to keep track, CareEasy lets you schedule and share tasks and events within the same joint calendar.
Longer-term planning addresses needs that might come up in the future, as a parent’s needs become more complicated or pressing. For example, a senior with mild dementia might function well with regular check-ins and support around grocery shopping and meal preparation, while someone with full-blown Alzheimer’s disease may require 24/7 care. How will your family cope with that situation?
Assign roles, and be honest
Once you’ve identified your parent’s needs, you can create a spreadsheet that outlines each task, when and how often it occurs, and who will be responsible for it.
Here, it’s important to be honest about your resources: how much time, energy, and money does each member and the team as a whole have to devote to a parent’s care? Is it realistic to expect an adult son or daughter to help with intimate tasks like bathing or using the toilet? Include your parent in these conversations where you can. In some cases, it simply might not be possible for a parent to remain in their home, or to expect adult children with jobs and families to perform the bulk of a parent’s personal care.
Once you’ve assigned roles, put them in writing so that everyone is clear on their responsibilities: Log in to the CareEasy app and assign responsibilities to each member in your Circle of Care. And remember, you can also use the app to keep track of who’s doing (and paying for) what, and when.
Aging is a dynamic process, and it’s very likely that your parents’ needs (and your own) will change over time. It’s important for team members to communicate openly about these changes, and to adjust plans and roles as necessary. Check in regularly with each other. Consider scheduling regular, more formal meetings to evaluate how the plan is working.
What if we can no longer care for mom or dad at home?
That question hovers in the minds of many caregivers, especially if a parent has at some point made them promise to “never put me in a home.”
Most Canadians want to continue to live at home as they age, rather than move into a retirement home or a long-term care facility. In July 2020, the National Institute on Aging, based at Ryerson University in Toronto, sampled more than 1500 Canadians and found that 91% of Canadians of all ages — and almost 100% of Canadians age 65 and older — wanted to try to live safely and independently in their own home for as long as possible.
But sometimes, staying at home just isn’t possible. That’s not a failure on the part of the caregiving team — it’s just a reality of aging and the circumstances of people’s lives. It can help to remember that moving a parent to an assisted-living or nursing home may decrease stress, improve quality of life, and even improve strained relationships. Although some seniors are very reluctant to leave the familiarity of their own home, many enjoy the companionship and stimulation that assisted living can offer once they’ve gotten used to the move.
Remember: your caregiving plan doesn’t dissolve after your parent has moved into a nursing home: it just changes. Use CareEasy to make sure that mom or dad is getting regular visits, phone and FaceTime calls, and check ins, and to keep up-to-date on their condition and care.