10 things you need to know before becoming a home caregiver

by the Editor, SeniorInsider | May 27, 2011

  By 2040 nearly 23% of the U.S. population will be considered elderly, requiring a live-in caregiver or home caregiver. Many people who have elderly loved ones who require care are feeling the tug of obligation to take over caregiver duties while attempting to factor in their own lives in the process. In truth, being a home caregiver is a delicate balancing act and comes with a whole host of responsibilities and pressures you may not have even considered prior to agreeing to become a live-in or home caregiver. Communication is key when planning out caregiving needs in order to avoid hurt feelings or resistance, especially from family members.


Home Caregiver Must Communicate Clearly with Family

  1. Before you definitively decide to become the home caregiver, arrange a time and place to meet with the rest of the family members and discuss the necessity of having care for your senior family member. It’s incredibly important to make sure the entire family is in agreement prior to jumping into becoming the home caregiver. Make sure you listen carefully to other’s concerns, and put all the cards on the table so no one feels like they were left out of the loop down the road. If you are going to be quitting a job in order to become a live-in caregiver or home caregiver, then finances, no matter how touchy, must be discussed.
  2. Don’t leave the elderly family member out of the discussions. Share your feelings and concerns, let them know how much you love them and that you are concerned for their safety. Discuss the level of care they will require, and make a schedule which will work for all concerned.
  3. Talk to the elderly person you are providing caregiving for—as well as other family members—regarding a living will, power of attorney and any other legal and financial issues which must be in place in order for your home caregiver duties to go smoothly.


Home Caregiver Must Fully Understand the Stress Involved

  1. Taking care of your own health is essential. Many home caregivers neglect their health, skipping their own doctor visits and checkups because they don’t feel they have the time. They stop exercising and eating nutritiously and soon they end up sick and exhausted. Your own health—mental and physical—is essential to the success of your caregiving duties.
  2. The cardinal rule of home caregiving is to make time for yourself. At a minimum, the live-in caregiver or home caregiver needs half a day per week of time that is completely their own. Don’t neglect your own hobbies, or the things which give you pleasure in life. Even though it seems there is no time, you absolutely must make the time or you will end up in caregiver burnout.
  3. Talk to someone—whether you join a support group, speak to a therapist, talk to a trusted friend, relative or pastor, don’t ever think you are “fine” and don’t need support.  Ask for help when you need it—when you devote your entire life to becoming a home caregiver, you can end up feeling resentful toward the rest of the family members who don’t seem to be pulling their weight. Look into respite care, and take a break when you need it.


Home Caregiver Must Receive Proper Training

  1. It’s critical that you receive basic training in CPR and other home caregiver training methods. Often these are taught at your local hospital or community center and can allow you to feel much more confident in your role as home caregiver. If your loved one requires certain medical techniques, have a nurse show you how to give an injection or administer a breathing treatment until you are comfortable with the procedure.
  2. Many times senior centers and hospitals offer caregiving classes which help prepare you for the sometimes stark reality of the job. Take advantage of them—you can end up making critical connections which will come in handy down the road.


Home Caregiver Must Keep Others Informed

  1. Have regular meetings to keep other family members up to speed on what is going on with your elderly patient. It is much easier to deal with issues as they come up rather than letting them simmer until things reach the boiling point. Be honest and upfront with other family members about the level of care your elderly loved one requires.
  2. Accompany the elderly family member to a doctor’s appointment in order to ask all the questions you need to ask regarding any necessary medical care, medication questions or treatments. Ensure that all health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid is in place for future doctor appointments.




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