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When Should I Bring In a Caregiver to Help With My Child With a Disability?

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Figuring out when you should bring a caregiver into your life to support you and your child is not easy. If you’ve never hired anyone before, a lot of questions can swirl around in your head and actually prevent you from making that decision.

Questions like, “Can I afford it?” “Where do I find the right person?” “How can I trust someone to care for my child?”

The other factor that can get in our way is that few of us truly like change. As a parent of a child with a disability, you might feel you’ve already experienced disruption in your life and might not want to cause any more by bringing in a caregiver, even though your life may not be in a good place. Many families become so immersed in the day-to-day things, in the struggles of their lives (because they have little choice), that it is difficult to step back and see what’s really going on.

Believe me, I’ve been there.

However, what is also true is that as parents, we can’t be the primary caregiver forever. Our bodies won’t let us. At some point, we will need support to keep us fresh and ensure that our children are well supported.

So when is the right time to bring in a caregiver? It comes down to three warning signs I believe can tell you that you have reached that point:

1.    You feel there are no options.

When my son, Ben, was young, one health crisis seemed to blend into the next, and we never could predict when the next emergency would be. With life so complicated, we couldn’t imagine finding anyone who would want to care for Ben, or be qualified enough.

At the time, my wife, Jan, was the one at home with three kids all day, but it was weighing on everyone. She needed a change of routine and get back to work, but we couldn’t wrap our heads around leaving Ben with anyone.

It was apparent that we had backed ourselves into a corner. We really needed two incomes since Ben’s world was so expensive but couldn’t figure out how we could afford to pay a caregiver. It was such a dilemma.

2.    You feel exhausted.

One of the risks of being the only caregiver in your child’s life is that you become a single point of failure. If anything happened to you, there is no backup plan. You certainly can’t “call in sick” at any time.

The idea that you can always be the one on the hook for day-to-day needs is not realistic, no matter how Herculean you think you are. The longer you allow this to go on, the more tired you will become, the less sharp you will be to make the right decisions, and the greater risk you will get sick … and then what?

3.    Your relationships are suffering.

Our first attempt to hiring someone for Ben was really only to cover the time between when Jan left for her evening shift and I got home from my job — about two to three hours. This was really more like babysitting than caregiving.

We chose this compromise because we thought it made sense — Jan could work evenings and I could continue to work days which would get her back to work and we would (theoretically) have more income to support Ben.

After a few months, we saw things get slightly better financially but Jan and I never saw each other. We were like two ships passing in the night.

After a few years of this routine, we had turned into a couple of zombies.

It wasn’t good for our health.It wasn’t good for our marriage.

And our kids were certainly not getting the best of their mom and dad.

In our case, all these warning signs didn’t occur at the same time but they did (eventually) tell us loud and clear we couldn’t do everything on our own. This was no way to live.

Once we made the leap to hiring a caregiver — and it is a leap — we have never looked back.

Learn more at Soaring Families

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Getty image by DGLimages

Originally published: January 10, 2018
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