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WHAT’S so difficult about caring for a loved one who’s ill and frail? What needs to be done seems so obvious and easy right? Nothing is further from the truth. Sometimes the best plans can go frighteningly awry.

In our busy lives, we can get distracted and detour from our daily routines for only so long. It’s even harder to provide long-term caregiving without major adjustments and changes to our own lives. So something’s got to give.

For example, if you have a full-time job, you can’t just take off every time there’s an emergency. Some employers don’t take too kindly for such situations.

Believe me, when you have a loved one like an ailing parent or someone who’s down due to cancer or stroke, or other debilitating illnesses, hospital admissions and visits to the emergency room are nothing new. Your life seems to always be on standby.

Your situation may be under control if you have a great deal of support from the rest of the family, whom you can play tag with and assign duties according to a roster.

Once your loved one is home, it may also be a lot easier if you can hire people to help you out to do the basic caregiving of preparing meals and serving them, giving medication on time and other basic needs like bathing and toileting.

It’s when you’re the one doing everything and trying to juggle all your duties at work and at home, in addition to caregiving, that you end up being worn out over time.

Let’s face it, you can’t be in a few places all at the same time. And there are only so many hours in a day for you to do everything that needs to be done.

It doesn’t help that you’ll receive unsolicited advice and comments from people who can’t do more than just talk.

So what do you do? You need to plan. You need to deal with certain realities to overcome challenges.

CAREFULLY PLANNING AHEAD

Sometimes it’s hard to plan when an elderly loved one refuses to give his or her consent and cooperate to deal with a new, challenging reality. It’s not easy to deal with their protests and potential ensuing depression.

Here are some examples. There are some parents who refuse to allow outsiders like maids or even professional caregivers into their home.

While they have no issues with being treated by qualified strangers in a hospital setting, they refuse to have it in their own home.

They feel that having people other than family members in their home violates their privacy.

They also have issues about strangers doing their laundry for them because they feel as though their personal belongings could be at risk.

In some instances, some of us might have bought our dream home and it’s been a sanctuary for years.

However, with children leaving the nest, such a home can suddenly become empty, too big, and too far for family members to come visit and help during times of need and emergencies.

In this case, it’s probably the right time to consider downsizing to a smaller home, which is easier to manage and located closer to a hospital and other family members.

Some people have been independent and living on their own for so long that they balk at having to move into one of their children’s homes even though that seems like the most practical choice.

Before things become dire, look at the available options. Personally check out other potential places to see if it meets your expectations and make the necessary plans for it. Work out the cost and budget as well.

GETTING PRIORITIES RIGHT

If you have to sell your house to move to a new setting that suits your current situation, it’s a good idea to do so while you can still make the choices yourself.

While you’re at it, consider the hospitals that are nearest. If you need to go for regular treatments such as haemodialysis, physiotherapy, chemotherapy and so on, you’d want to make sure that it’s nearby too.

Access to public transport or an area that readily provides shuttle services for those who are physically challenged should also be considered.

Food and cleaning services, as well as other facilities should be taken into consideration.

You’d want to look at the worst-case scenario if you were left alone at home and you’d still be able to cope should you need assistance and in case of emergencies.

Living in a bungalow with a huge garden where you can’t call out to your neighbours for help is not a risk worth taking.

However, time has a way of changing our needs and we have to reconsider based on our current situation, requirements and abilities.

How hard can caregiving be? Well it can be quite difficult even when you’re focused, organised and have your priorities in order.

Getting family members together and tackling issues without being emotional would be a feat in itself because you may end up ruffling feathers and challenge core values. But it has to be done. It won’t happen overnight but it’s something you have to do for your loved one.

Putri Juneita Johari volunteers for the Special Children Society of Ampang. She can be reached at [email protected].

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