The vast majority of caregiving in America is provided by family members of dependent individuals, young and old. Their contributions are recognized every November during National Family Caregiver Awareness Month, and for good reason. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, nearly 44 million family members provided unpaid care to a dependent relative in the past 12 months, with an average commitment of 21 hours per week.
Many of these compassionate caregivers live near their dependent relatives. Some do not, however, and the rigors of providing care become exponentially more difficult. We know and understand the challenges you may be facing. Let us share four tips you may be able to use to help relieve those burdens.
- Create a Social Support System. Family caregivers are typically spouses, parents, and adult children of aging seniors. They are also, however, friends and neighbors who help dependent people with daily activities, such as grocery shopping, transportation, laundry, and yard and home maintenance. If you live far away, creating a caregiver social support system with willing friends and neighbors can be enormously beneficial. Social services programs and religious communities may also provide online forums for volunteer dependent-care assistance.
- Develop a Basic Emergency Plan. Developing an effective emergency plan may be the difference between life and death. Make sure a trusted neighbor or friendly contact of your dependent relative has your phone number and access to your dependent loved one’s home. Give them the home alarm code if necessary, and give them permission to call 911 at their discretion.
- Establish Access to Information. Primary family caregivers should visit their dependent relatives whenever possible, and take the opportunity to build relationships with their support system. Meeting with a dependent loved one’s doctors, and gaining access to important health, insurance and financial information can be critical. Do not allow a lapse in care to occur due to preventable administrative issues.
- Address Legal Matters – ASAP. One of the most important things a family caregiver can do, is create or update a dependent loved one’s legal documents. For example, a durable power of attorney could authorize a family caregiver to make decisions on his or her behalf, whether the loved one is sick, incapacitated or incompetent. This is just the start of the documents to consider with your estate planning and elder law attorney.
The key is to not wait to get the support you need for yourself, as a family caregiver, or as the elder. Do not wait to contact our firm and schedule a meeting to discuss this or any of your related questions. We are your local law firm here and ready to help you.