When older adults are no longer capable of independent functioning, relatives step in. Family members who serve as the primary caregiver to elderly parents are known as family caregivers. These individuals are charged with carrying out five primary duties that affect seniors’ everyday lives.
The demand on family caregivers can lead to severe emotional stress, especially when the family member cares fulltime for a relative with advanced dementia. Not all family caregivers are well suited for caregiving, making it important to consider supplemental assistance from home care agencies.
Family caregivers have multiple roles when caregiving for an aging adult. Caregivers may start out helping a parent intermittently and then progress toward greater responsibilities as the senior becomes frailer, cognitively impaired, disabled or ill with advanced cancer, Parkinson’s or dementia.
The family caregiver might notice a loved one having trouble with routine activities, such as balancing a checkbook. Minimal assistance at this point is necessary. On the other hand, a family caregiver may suddenly assume caregiving duties when the senior undergoes a hip fracture or stroke.
Consequently, the responsibilities of a family caregiver depend on the extent and nature of support needed. It is worth noting that the level of caregiving duties may wax and wane. A stroke patient may require intense support at first; and, as the senior regains function, caregiving gradually decreases.
Responsibility #1: Assistance with ADLs
Most, if not all, family caregivers, however, provide a range of essential support with routine life tasks. Assistance with the activities of daily living (ADLs) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs), like managing finances, laundry, household chores, home maintenance, bill payments, transportation, and meal preparation, are expected duties of family caregivers.
Seniors also require help with self-care tasks, such as bathing, grooming, toileting, and dressing. Just under 20 percent of family caregivers provide assistance with self-care tasks either every day or most days. Family caregivers help care recipients with medication management and doctor’s appointments.
Responsibility #2: Emotional and Social Support
Emotional changes in the care recipient may develop gradually, as frailty increases, or symptoms of cognitive decline begin to emerge. The relationship with a family caregiver is thus impacted. Conversely, the emotional impact on the relationship may swerve suddenly in the event of an unanticipated health crisis.
Providing emotional support to an elderly individual who has suffered a stroke, for example, will be the most time-consuming aspect of the caregiving role. The senior’s bouts of depression or sadness, feelings of worthlessness, loneliness, anxiety, and worry require intense emotional support.
Responsibility #3: Medical Tasks
The family caregiver will perform simple healthcare duties at home. Medications may be administered not only orally but also via patches, injections and intravenously. In instances of severe illness, the family caregiver will manage equipment, such as feeding tubes or catheters.
Symptom management and monitoring the senior’s condition are the family caregiver’s responsibilities. The caregiver will manage fever, dehydration, delirium, and complex medication regimens. Hands-on procedures, like infusion pumps and wound care, are also increasingly in the realm of family caregivers.
Responsibility #4: Care Coordination
Family caregivers will find themselves making doctor’s appointments for their elderly care recipients. The caregivers accompany the senior to the doctor’s office, speak to the doctor and order prescription medications. They also change or otherwise handle the senior’s medical insurance.
As advocates, the family caregiver is responsible for identifying and procuring resources to facilitate the senior’s healthcare. They may deal with potential payers, like Medicare, Medicaid and Medigap. The caregiver may even help the senior transition to a new care setting, like an assisted living facility.
Responsibility #5: Decision Making
Seniors with mild cognitive impairment have the ability to express their wishes. When cognitive decline is severe, the family caregiver will be responsible for making decisions on the senior’s behalf. Frail individuals may require the assistance from family caregivers to execute their decisions.
Several aspects influence decision making. These include the senior’s and family caregiver’s values, preferences, abilities, goals, and perceptions. Caregivers and care recipients may not always agree. For support, both parties may utilize living wills, power of attorney and personal care agreements.
Making healthcare decisions is crucial. An elderly parent who is cognitively able to make decisions but refuses medical care, risks death. In such cases, the family caregiver is not responsible or liable for the senior’s death, since the senior has a right to make medical decisions, however unwise.
Remember, the family caregiver who assumes the role of caregiver is responsible for the senior’s health. This creates a duty of care. If the aging senior requests medical intervention but the family caregiver fails to provide care, it would be considered a violation of the duty of care.
When decision-making capabilities are lost, most seniors prefer to involve family caregivers as surrogate decision makers. In other cases, decisions are made after a caregiver is appointed via power of attorney, advance directive or when the courts formally appoint a guardian.
Family caregivers undertake a major responsibility when caring for an aging parent or relative. The demand of their time, financial resources and emotions can be stressful for most. For short-term relief, family caregivers turn to Assisting Hands Home Care for dependable and much-needed respite care.
Assisting Hands Home Care provides quality respite care when family caregivers require a break from caregiving responsibilities. Our elder care services include assistance with the activities of daily living (such as bathing, dressing and grooming), plus transportation, meal preparation and companionship.
Our home care services are non-medical in nature but fulfill the daily needs of the seniors in our care. Family caregivers who utilize our respite care services return from their break with renewed energy, allowing them to continue care with increased focus, alertness, and compassion.
Whether your loved one would benefit from dementia home care, live-in care or respite care, Assisting Hands Home Care will develop a flexible care plan. Our professional caregivers, who are bonded, insured and licensed, serve the elderly living in the communities surrounding Aurora, Batavia, Bartlett, Geneva and St. Charles, Illinois.