You love your family, and you understand that family comes first, but being a caregiver comes with a lot of responsibility. There are many factors that go into being an informal caregiver. But no matter how old your loved one is, if they need your help, you need to know where to begin. This article is a beginner’s guide to informal caregiving, written to help give you and your dependent peace of mind.
Understand the Basics
An informal caregiver is a person who provides regular care or help to a friend or family member with a debilitating health issue or a disability. Typically, they help make appointments, give medications, and help with meals and chores.
If you aren’t a live-in caregiver, you can hire certain people to help take care of them, such as a visiting nurse and short-term caregivers. In addition, non-emergency medical transporters can take your loved one wherever they need to go if you can’t take them. Some insurance companies will help pay for these caregivers, or you can apply for government care through Medicare, Medicaid, or Veterans programs as applicable.
Self-Neglect and Immobility
If a dependent needs intensive at-home care, they are usually either immobile or severely self-neglected. They typically need 24-7 care and require more care than a person who can move or feed themselves.
Self-neglect isn’t usually on purpose. Some of the signs and symptoms of self-neglect are poor personal hygiene, skin rashes or bedsores, or weight loss due to malnourishment. If a person is immobile, these things can rapidly turn into life-or-death situations. Unfortunately, self-neglect situations can also turn into immobility cases, so 24-7 care is necessary.
If you cannot afford a live-in caregiver or cannot be one yourself, a care facility is your safest option.
Know Your Rights and Theirs
Often, the caregiver will have to take care of financial decisions and responsibilities. You will have to monitor their decisional capacity, as it can degrade over time.
If they are completely incapable of making their own legal and financial decisions, you can obtain complete authority through power of attorney or applying for guardianship through the local courts. You can also appoint a Health Care Power of Attorney if you cannot make these decisions, and they will follow set guidelines for decision-making.
In addition, if your caregiving is affecting your job and financial situation, a few tips can help. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) can offer you up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year. A Personal Care Agreement between the caregiver and dependent can also be legally arranged through a lawyer. This agreement will provide the caregiver financial compensation for completing expected caregiver tasks.
Hopefully, this beginner’s guide to informal caregiving helps you better understand what you can do at home for your loved one and what your options are if you can’t. Remember, the best thing that you can do for your dependent is to take care of yourself so that you can stay healthy and give them the care that they need.