We all need some assistance occasionally. So if you’ve decided to help out a sick or aging relative, then congratulations on the good karma you’ll be building up. Caring for another human being isn’t always easy, but it can be very rewarding.
Talk to Them
Assuming your relative is lucid and able to communicate, you should talk to them about what they need from you. What do they have the most trouble getting done? What would be the biggest thing you could do every day to help out? You might be surprised at the answers you get. Dealing with a medical condition can be frustrating and disheartening, and it can also be very lonely. After you go buy groceries for your grandma, don’t be surprised if she asks you to just sit down for a while and talk to her about your life. If she hears that you’re dating someone new, let her tell the story of how she met your grandfather. It’s all too easy for people of a certain age to feel like life has passed them by. The mere act of sitting down on the couch and having a conversation with your relative can do wonders for their morale. It may not seem like a big deal to you, but it probably is for them. Talk to them, not at them. There’s a difference.
You should get comfortable with any medical equipment your relative depends on to survive. If you aren’t sure how to clean your grandfather’s cpap machine, ask a more experienced person to show you. If your diabetic great-aunt needs help taking her blood sugar every day, then educate yourself on blood glucose meters and test strips. Caregiving isn’t a job for the squeamish, but if you have trouble with certain tasks, it’s OK to bring in extra assistance. Your relative needs someone who is fully committed to helping them out, and there’s unfortunately no time for a person who hesitates when they’re asked to help someone use the toilet. It’s better to know what your limits are ahead of time than try and fail to surpass them at a moment when your relative is especially vulnerable.
Send in the Pros
Outside of health and hygiene, there will be some household tasks that you simply can’t perform on your own. Sure, you can load the dishwasher and clean the toilet, but if there’s a stubborn bathtub clog that isn’t responding, it’s time to call in a plumber. Modern plumbers have plenty of tools at their disposal, and they’ve seen it all. In fact, if they can’t see it all, they may be able to perform a sewer camera inspection. Don’t spend a lot of time trying to snake the drain if you aren’t sure what you’re doing. Call a plumber, then make some tea for you and your relative while you wait for help to arrive.
Not everyone can live out their days at home. It’s a luxury that requires plenty of help from friends and family members. Your relative may not always be appreciative, especially if they’re dealing with a particularly painful ailment. Know that you’re doing them a great service by allowing them to live in their home and retain some level of dignity. There will be tough days, but there will also be plenty of moments that allow you and your relative to bond with one another. There will be a time when your relative isn’t around anymore. It could be weeks or it could be years. Whenever it happens, you’ll be glad for the memories you made together.