Taking care of ourselves is a priority when we want to live well.
We try to make good decisions minute-to-minute — parking further from the door, choosing fruits instead of pastries or taking that medication as prescribed.
We tend not to think about the long-range decisions that can also help us maximize our future wellbeing and independence. We often don’t plan ahead for potential transitions that seem too difficult, instead waiting for a crisis to force us to act.
When we do this, options become more limited and decision-making becomes more stressful. Consider taking the time early on to paint a picture of your caregiving situation so that you may better understand your long-term options, and lay the groundwork for choices that will feel right for you and your loved ones:
Older adults and their families can make muddy caregiving scenarios much clearer — in about four minutes — with help from a decision-making tool at tools.roobrik.com/familymeans/care.
By doing an online assessment, families can easily summarize their situations with a Care Fit Report that includes a timeline and a rundown of care needs, finances and options.
This report, which can be shared with support teams, can also be a first step toward connecting with helpful community resources.
Put yourself first
Learn what services are available in your community to help take care of yourself along your caregiving journey.
For example, does your health insurance plan offer discounts at the local fitness center? Is there a veteran’s benefit you could tap into for caregiver support or respite? Understanding what caregiver services are available for you is important — think support groups, education classes, caregiver coaching.
Even if you don’t use resources right away, doing research can help you feel more in control.
Look before you need
Examining areas of concern — housing, transportation, care needs and more — is easier when you don’t need to make a quick decision.
Find out more about that meal-delivery service your friend mentioned. Call the phone number on the side of the mini-bus you see at the shopping mall and ask how their service works. Take a tour of the apartment building that intrigues you.
Being curious rather than panicked may allow you or the person you care for to be open-minded about options and then more ready to make use of services if and when they’re needed.
Sometimes there are even non-binding steps you can take early — starting a registration process or getting on a waiting list — that will make for a smoother transition later.
This is also a good opportunity to start conversations with people close to you about likes and dislikes, values and wishes, and what living well means to you. By talking about what you discover as you look around at resources, you’ll be sharing with each other important insights about what may work best in the future.
What are the markers along the way that would cause you to consider a change of some sort? A decline or injury to your body? Financial circumstances? Inability to drive safely?
Sometimes important signals are right in front of our eyes, but are difficult to see because we’re so close to the situation. Identifying these signposts ahead of time, and talking with others about them, can increase the chances you’ll recognize them when you reach them. Remember, you can always change your mind.
Discuss your thoughts
Take a step toward living well at any age. Have open conversations with those you trust and those who may be helping you in the future.
Having other individuals aware of your wishes and values can help them become better supporters and advocates for you, should you need help.
Go to tools.roobrik.com/familymeans/care to get perspective on complex caregiving situations in as little as four minutes.
Jenny West and Beth Wiggins work at FamilyMeans in Caregiver Support & Aging Services. They’re both active members in the Metropolitan Caregiver Service Collaborative (caregivercollaborative.org).