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Preparing to Care for Aging Loved Ones

Senior relatives bring their families great joy. Grandma and Grandpa are often able to tell the best tales of times past. The memories they impart during family get-togethers, along with the valuable family history they recount, become the ties that bind many families together. Our elder ancestors are the very roots that strengthen each relative's sense of place, comfort and knowledge of how they came to be in this world.

Along with these joys come hard decisions that may eventually need to be made regarding their ability to live alone. Some seniors suffer mental or physical limitations that make it difficult for them to safely care for themselves. In these instances, family members find themselves in the position of deciding who can provide the best care for their loved ones. Typically, this decision-making process -- from recognition to solution -- can take approximately a year and a half. Usually a female family member, such as a daughter or granddaughter, is the one who makes the final decision regarding care. In families where there is no daughter, this role often falls on the shoulders of the oldest son's wife (the daughter-in-law).

There are two types of caregiving scenarios to consider -- choosing a willing family member to provide care or hiring a home care company to deliver caregiving services for seniors. Deciding to become a family caregiver can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Family caregivers often find their relationships with their senior loved ones enriching and satisfying beyond words. It feels good to give the gift of time. Even so, becoming a family caregiver can have a negative impact. Many family caregivers experience financial difficulties, either by missing work to care for their loved one or by supporting two households. Family caregivers also become susceptible to suffering depression due to the physical and emotional impact of caregiving for a family member. The careful consideration of all parties involved should be taken into account before a family member takes on a caregiving role.

An alternative to family caregiving is to hire a professional and experienced agency to provide care and support. Employees of these agencies perform duties ranging from occasional housekeeping to daily companionship for seniors who need close monitoring.

Choosing a home care agency can be a challenging task, so we compiled a list of critical questions for families to ask when interviewing caregiving companies. Choosing a company that best fits a loved one's needs and facilitates a safe environment for a senior in his or her own home is essential for success.

Simply initiating the topic of in-home care can cause tension and unease. This decision can inspire guilt for the person making the decision as well as resentment from the senior who needs care. We gathered suggestions to help families start this important conversation and understand the core issues surrounding caregiving.

Deciding a loved one needs additional care can be a daunting experience. Deciding who can best care for a senior loved one is a very important decision. The end result should make everyone happy and provide peace of mind for all involved.

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