Learn how to juggle obligations, save money, and care for yourself from the people who do it every day
Family caregivers spend an average of 24.4 hours per week providing care. If the caregiver lives with the loved one, that number jumps to 40.5 hours. So, what are the secrets to getting it all done and staying strong yourself?
Cluster doctor visits. “We try to schedule as many appointments in the same week as possible,” says Rebecca Foreaker, a nurse from Lehighton, Pennsylvania, who cares for her 84-year-old grandmother. “We write down any questions for the doctors and usually schedule any ordered tests ASAP.” Dragging it out is more stressful for both the caregiver and loved one, she says.
Organize a schedule for meds. Making pharmacy trips or tracking mail-order packages can eat up a lot of time. Work with your loved one’s doctor and pharmacist to get all medications on the same 90-day refill schedule. Then, turn to a weekly morning and evening pill organizer to keep track of doses, advises Foreaker.
Save money on medications. Ask doctors for samples and coupons, and always Google the name of any prescription and the words “coupon or promo.” Another good resource: needymeds.org. At last check, there were nearly 4,500 drugs and dosages on its list of offerings.
Know what your community provides. “There are many services out there, such as Meals on Wheels, and adult day services,” says Foreaker. Your loved one may even qualify for a home health aide. Check with your county’s agency on aging — you can find it through n4a.org or your health plan’s case manager.
Also, look for what’s available directly to you. “I stress to caregivers that they should seek support groups for the particular illness their loved one is dealing with — for example, stroke, Alzheimer’s, or dementia,” says Jane Korpics, a medical and surgical case manager in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, who often counsels families in caregiving situations.
Let children help where they can. Foreaker often brings her children to her grandmother’s home and lets them help with vacuuming or cleaning out and organizing the refrigerator. “It gets things done, and she likes giving them a few dollars for it — it makes her feel good,” says Foreaker. And, it’s time Foreaker can share with her children, not away from them.
Enlist backup. “If you can afford it, it’s worth it to bring in a private home health aide, even just once a week,” says Korpics. “Burnout can affect your mental health, your well-being, and your relationship with your loved one.” Need short-term, around-the-clock care while you are on vacation or during your own hospitalization? “Skilled nursing and assisted-living facilities offer respite stays of one to two weeks for a reasonable fee,” suggests Korpics. Search a Place for Mom to find respite care in your state.
Remember to share time beyond caregiving. “I try to spend time with my grandmother talking about whatever she wants, usually the good old days,” Foreaker says. “She loves when my children come and entertain her, with their dancing and silliness.” Caregiving is tough and stressful at times, but it’s also incredibly rewarding, Foreaker reminds. Although her nursing background has helped her prepare, she encourages that anyone can do it as long as their heart is in it.