Being a caregiver for a person with a disability or older adult can be challenging. Family caregivers frequently provide personal assistance with bathing, grooming, and other self-care activities, medication management, and health monitoring. Family caregivers may be faced with navigating through a complex “system” to access health services and benefits for their loved one. This process can be complicated, time-consuming, and often overwhelming.
Caregivers can achieve a better work-life balance by keeping certain tips in mind.
Identify your loved one’s priorities.
- What type of care and activities are important to your loved one?
- Who would they like involved?
- Discuss ways you can honor their goals and wishes.
Rally your support team. Your support team can consist of family, friends, neighbors, and people from your networks such as a culture, hobby, and/or faith communities.
Be informed. The best way to navigate “the system” is to learn and understand it. Contact your local MAP office and ask an Options Counselor:
- My loved one has identified certain goals and needs that are important to them. What services can help meet them?
- What public programs could my loved one be eligible for that provide the identified services?
- If my loved one is not eligible for any public programs, what are some private pay or reduced/sliding fee options?
- "What is not available for my loved one and why?"
- "What does it (the service/program) provide?"
- "What are the eligibility requirements and how do I apply for them?"
- "What are the next steps?"
- "Who should be involved?"
- Where can I learn more about how to be an effective caregiver, connect with other caregivers, and find services that can support me?
Make a plan. Work with your loved one and support team to coordinate possible supports and services. Many people frequently want to help, but don’t know how or when. Consider using free online caregiver coordination sites, such as Lotsa Helping Hands, to engage your support team. Also, check whether your local area has an organized "Village" that offers volunteer and fee-based services for older adults with long term needs.
Advocate. Caregivers are first and foremost advocates. Assist your loved one to make their voice heard about their wants, preferences, and needs. Advocate early and often!
Create space for the person with a disability to take the lead. Whenever possible, your loved one should take the lead in making decisions about their life. We all make good and bad decisions in life. Individuals with disabilities have the same right.
Don't forget technology. There might be an App for that! From low-tech to high-tech devices, there are various assistive technology and adaptive equipment available to support a person’s independence. Talk to a Maryland Access Point staff member to learn more about independent living through technology. Technology and apps can help keep track of your loved one’s whereabouts, manage chronic conditions and medications, or assist with activities of daily living.
Balance the relationship. Being a caregiver for a loved one takes emotional and physical strength, not to mention a lot of time and attention. Arrange for “respite” for your loved one on a regular basis (or when possible) so that you can recharge. Respite is a type of service that provides temporary care for your loved one so that you can take a break. Consider also finding social activities and support groups that both you and your loved one can attend together so that you can connect in a way other than through caregiving.
Plan for the future. When caring for a person with a disability, there are many legal, financial and health-related matters to consider. Planning in advance can help prevent crisis or allow you to better handle a crisis if it happens. Certified Options Counselors are available at your local Maryland Access Point to assist you in planning for the future. Work together to develop a written action plan with next steps to get prepared.