Caring For the Elderly – What Caregivers Should Expect and Be Prepared For

Growing old is an inevitable part of life if you don’t die young, and even though we’re prepared to accept the changes that our bodies and minds go through, there comes a time when the elderly are forced to rely on the help of other people if they are to live in reasonable comfort. Some are lucky enough to be able to live with family members while others make do with a personal caregiver in the comfort of their homes. It’s only those who have neither of these options who move to assisted living facilities or a nursing home where they are looked after by healthcare professionals.

While most people would prefer to have their family look after them or hire a personal caregiver to do the job, there is one downside to this method of caring for the elderly – the caregiver’s life is affected more often than not. But if they are prepared and know what to expect, it could turn out to be a positive experience. So if you’re a caregiver for the elderly, here’s what you need to do to avoid stressing out and also doing the best you can for the person(s) you’re looking after:

  • Don’t expect gratitude or appreciation: You may be doing your best to look after your charge, but that’s not to say that they’re going to show their gratitude or appreciation for you. While some people do so, others tend to be cranky and crotchety as old people are wont to be. So it’s best not to expect these attributes, even if they are forthcoming initially. If you look at what you do as just another job rather than as a favor for someone, you’ll do just fine. As time goes by, you’ll get used to their eccentricities, if they have any.
  • Talk payment at the outset: While this is not an issue for total strangers or medical professionals (who are not family), when you’re a family member (as in a distant relative caring for your elderly great aunt or uncle), you must thrash out payment issues before you take up the position. This is a sticky issue, but the sooner you deal with it, the better you’re able to resolve it. Put your demands on the table and ensure that you are paid adequately because the money you make goes a long way in compensating the sacrifices you may be forced to make.
  • Know where to draw the line: If you’re a family member looking after your mother, father, aunt or uncle, you’re doing so because you don’t want them to be all alone when they’re old and infirm. You go out of your way to make them comfortable out of the goodness of your heart. But if your charge(s) take advantage of you and demand all of your time and energy, it’s time to put your foot down and reclaim some of your life back. It’s best to do this at the outset so that they know where you stand. Make them understand that you will look after them well, but not at the cost of sacrificing your own life.
  • Look after yourself: And most important of all, if you fail to take care of yourself and keep yourself fit and in good health, you fail in your duty as a caregiver. If you’re not in good health, you’re unable to look after your charge(s) and may be endangering their health and even lives. Also, set aside some time for your social life; interact with people of your own age, and take time to do the things that you want. Looking after the elderly is a job that tries the patience of even saints, so if you want to stick to it in the long term, you need to care for your mental, physical and emotional health first.