Caregiving is any service that helps in managing daily life, from having someone run errands to around-the-clock long-term care. It deserves the same shared decision-making process as other health care issues:
- Openly and honestly evaluate the situation.
- Access and consider available resources and care options.
- Make an informed decision.
If you’re concerned about someone’s safety or care needs, you will find self-guiding checklists at caregiverslibrary.org (Needs Assessment) and aarp.org (Assessment Checklist). Sometimes it’s best to have a third party, such as the primary care provider, suggest a full care assessment (and be the messenger). Just some of the questions to ask:
- What are the specific care needs?
- Are they temporary or permanent?
- Are social, spiritual and emotional needs being met?
- Are there one or more chronic medical conditions that will intensify?
- Is it time to get on waiting lists for available caregiving resources?
Caregiving needs and accessibility are shifting dramatically. Forty-five percent of Iowans aged 65 and older live alone — five times the rate of their 1950s counterparts — which reduces the availability of live-in assistance. Over the next 12 years, the number of potential caregivers will grow one percent as the ranks of those most in need will increase 79 percent. You can see the potential downside of failing to be caregiving-literate and proactive.
There’s a reason the flight attendant says, “If you’re responsible for another person, put your oxygen mask on first.” Twenty-nine percent of American adults are already caring for someone who is ill, disabled or aging. As a caregiver, addressing your mental, emotional, spiritual and physical needs will nurture your continuing ability to serve. I encourage you to consider your own well-being and visit caregiver.org (Taking Care of You).
If you’re the one who needs help, you’ll get no argument from me: Being dependent on others is the pits. Nevertheless, be honest about your capabilities and limitations and cooperate in finding ways to balance the quality and quantity of your life. Accept help when you’re blessed to have someone offer. And don’t be your own worst enemy by being a mule.
Next installment: Preventive care
Attorney Jo Kline has been writing award-winning books and teaching about medical decision making and health literacy for more than a decade.