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How to become a caregiver for a family member

As you approach potentially becoming a caregiver for your loved one, what you choose to do has just as much to do with your situation—and your family’s—as it does with your loved one’s. Here are some questions to ask and tips to consider before deciding who will care for your loved one.

Ask yourself these questions before making the decision to become a caregiver

  • Who can help care for your loved one? 
  • What are the family’s expectations? 
  • Can you logistically help? Are you close enough to visit often? Is there room for your loved one to move in with you? 
  • How much are you able to contribute financially? Can other family members help? 
  • How are you feeling emotionally? Do you have support? 
  • Can you care for your loved one’s specific needs?

Don't go it alone: Talking to family members about helping

Resentment about caregiving duties can often build over time. Don't suffer in silence and allow resentment to grow. Caregiving is heroic work, but it's vitally important for both your health and the health of your loved one that you try not to shoulder all of it by yourself. 

As a caregiver, it's normal to want to feel supported and appreciated by other family members. Getting others to help in ways that make sense can ease your burden and make things more sustainable. 

Family members who live close by tend to take on many caregiving responsibilities, but that shouldn't mean long-distance relatives can’t help. Remind those who aren't involved in the day-to-day duties of caregiving that they can support you and their loved one by: 

  • Paying for respite care 
  • Using vacation time to give you a break 
  • Helping with financial decisions

Key topics to discuss with your family members

Each family's situation is unique. The conversations you may need or want to have may include many different subject areas—but there are several things you should probably cover at some point. 

Caregiving challenges can bring a family closer together, or it might expose existing relational difficulties. Having more family members involved in caregiving means all the burden doesn't fall on one person, but it can make decision-making more complex.

How to make family decisions about the care of your loved one

Each family member may have an opinion on what should be done about a situation. While giving everyone a voice is important, giving everyone a vote on what happens may not be appropriate. 

You can work together to decide whose vote really matters most on a specific topic, whether or not they're directly involved. The wishes of your loved one are important, and caregivers who do the bulk of the hard work could feel that their vote matters the most, partly because they may be the most informed about what's needed. Ensure no one feels alienated from the conversations, especially your loved one. 

If major disagreements occur, you could hire a geriatric care manager to evaluate and help develop a plan for your loved one. Involving a third party might help eliminate conflicts and assure everyone that your loved one's best interests are being prioritized. Your loved one may also prefer to give power of attorney to one trusted person or family member, eliminating the need for consensus decision-making.

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This information is general in nature and provided for educational purposes only.

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