Whether it’s taking care of yourself or an aging family member, the role of caregiver is often a stressful and thankless responsibility. Too often people wait until a crisis occurs to address their financial and health realities. By waiting too long, the number of care options are less and there’s added pressure to make decisions more quickly.
Becky Feola writes about her experiences taking care of her husband and shares other people’s stories in her book “The Eldercare Consultant” published last year. She recognizes many people are forced into this role without any training or prior experience. It can be overwhelming for the person finding themselves in the role of caregiver for the first time.
Feola provides insight on identifying warning signs that a loved one might need help. Besides looking for decline in mental acuity related to dementia, there are also physical signs to watch for (such as the inability to maintain their home or take care of pets). Seeing a geriatric care physician is something to consider for tracking the aging process over time.
The distinction of calling yourself a caregiver is important to Feola rather than just considering yourself a family member or spouse. Focusing on your role as the caregiver opens the possibility that you’ll be more willing to seek outside resources or help. We see this in our own experience when someone is caring for their spouse and their health suffers as a result of taking on too much responsibility.
Two common reasons for delaying taking on the role of caregiver is fear of the unknown and lack of awareness of available resources. While we cannot predict what type of future care will be necessary, identifying potential scenarios can help reduce the uncertainty. In addition, you can find a wealth of resources through local departments on aging. For Racine County residents, visit the Aging and Disability Resource Center website at www.adrc.racineco.com. Another option provided by the National Council on Aging at www.benefitscheckup.org helps find additional resources.
I highly recommend Feola’s book for anyone who anticipates taking on the role of caregiver for a loved one. As she writes in her introduction, if you bought this book, “you’re not reading it for entertainment.” It’s practical stuff from someone who’s been there and wants to help.