The vast majority of my clients state in their estate plans that they wish to remain at home in case they become incapacitated or otherwise unable to care for themselves. They prefer to be at home where they have familiar surroundings. The decision to remain at home usually means that one or more caregivers must be found to assist the person so that they can continue to live at home.
WHO IS A CAREGIVER?
Almost anyone can serve as a caregiver. A caregiver could be a spouse, a child or grandchild, a friend, a neighbor, or a paid professional.
TYPICAL SERVICES OF A CAREGIVER
While it is obvious that the type of services a caregiver in the home may provide depends on the actual needs of the person, the following are general categories of care:
Housekeeping Services – such as cooking, cleaning, and laundry.
Transportation – driving the person to doctor visits, shopping, running errands on the person’s behalf, and taking them where they need to go.
Medications – assists with the taking of prescriptions, whether it is a simple reminder or tracking when and which medications are to be taken.
Companionship – talking and listening to the person, taking him or her on outings, meals or entertainment, or reading to the person.
Personal Care – helping the person bathe, go to the bathroom, brush teeth, feed or dress themselves.
Movement – walking with the person or assisting when he or she moves about so that it can be done safely and without fear of falling.
Financial Assistance – helping the person pay his or her bills, assist with correspondence, review bank and credit card statements, manage cash flow. **Note: there is great potential for elder financial abuse here. A person must be extremely careful when having another person access their financial information.
SUPPORT FOR THE CAREGIVER
While caring for someone else can be rewarding for both the person giving the care and the person receiving the care, it can also be exhausting. Caregivers may at times feel isolated, angry, frustrated, extremely tired, or overwhelmed. It is not uncommon for caregivers to feel burned out, stressed, or depressed.
Here are some things that can be done to provide support and show compassion for the caregiver:
Lighten the Load. Arrange for other people to share in the tasks of the caregiver. Simple things can make a difference for caregivers who never gets a break. Notice what a person is struggling with and offer to do it for them, even if it’s only one time.
The Power of Touch. Giving a hug, or pat on the shoulder or a gentle squeeze on the upper arm can let the caregiver know you appreciate what they’re doing. This is particularly helpful when the caregiver feels overwhelmed.
Say “Thank You”. You might be surprised how seldom caregivers are actually thanked verbally. The person they care for is often unable to focus on anyone other than themselves and what they need to do at any given time. It is more rewarding to work for someone when you feel your efforts are appreciated.
Smile. The patient to whom care is being given may not be able to smile at the caregiver when the caregiver comes to help them or acknowledge the good work that the caregiver provides. Be the patient’s smile for them. It is a reflexive action that often generates a smile in return.
Mind Your Tone. When you speak with a caregiver, be kind and sincere in your tone of voice rather than condescending or placating. This is especially important if you are asking the caregiver to do something for the patient in a different way from the way he or she did it or when you are asking the caregiver to take on an extra task for the patient.
Compensate Appropriately. Many caregivers are working for minimum wage. If the caregiver is a family member, other members of the family may consider that the caregiver should work for free because they are a family member, even if it means they give up gainful employment to be the caregiver. The law requires that caregivers be paid overtime for all hours worked more than nine hours in a day and for all hours worked more than forty hours in a week. Worker’s Compensation insurance and taxes is also required to be paid.