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Are You Drowning in Caregiving?

Posted by Stephen B.

An area of concern that I get asked about the most is finding someone to give the caregiver a break.Most adult children fall into caregiving as a result of an incident that placed their elder in a crisis situation. After the dust settles and reality sets in often we realize that our lives have changed and this change is often not welcomed.We find ourselves unprepared for caring for our parentespecially when that care is for issues such as dementia, incontinence or immobility. A period of time goes by and then we begin to feel totally overwhelmed. Most of this feeling can be a result of trying to be ALL to our parent. We find that our life, our family, and our routine has gone by the wayside.Many caregivers try to provide care single-handedlywhile neglecting their own needs. It is commonamoung caregivers to think that their life has to comesecond to the needs of their parent. Martyrdom is common.This thinking often leads to frustration, anger and guilt. We forget that we have a right to live and that balance is necessary in everyone's life.There are solutions but they require risk. Many caregivers often fear asking for help because they fear rejection. Admitting that they cannot handle all the caregiving alone is often terrifying. Most wonder why others will not offer to help so they do not have to ask.Picking up the reins is what will help us regain control of our lives. Creating a Freedom Plan1) Get special instruction to provide thecare needed. Ask your doctor for a Medicare Occupational Therapist or a Nurse to instruct you on incontinence care,bathing, a Physical Therapist to teach you how to transfer your parent to the toilet, in/out of the car, set up an exercise routine,etc.2) Make a list of all the things that will give you a break.ex: a cooked meal twice a weeka sitter 9:00am to noon Tuesday and Thursdayplay cards with mom every Wednesday afternoon3) Join a support team even when you think you do not need it. 4) Hire a baby sitter to sit with your parent so you can have a night out with spouse or family night.5) Plan a Vacation by swapping homes with a sibling.6) Hire respite care regularly for you and your family.7) Start all this as soon as possible so your parentgets use to different people providing the care.Keep your needs list current. ANYTIME ANYONE asks if you need anything go right to this list and ask them to choose what ever they feel they can do.You will be amazed how often people will sign up to help when you are clear on your needs.

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About the Author:Alice Endy is a Registered Nurse with advanced certification as a Gerontological Nurse. Alice has helped thousands provide care and support to their elder family members. Alice has been a caregiver for her Mother who is in her twelfth year of Alzheimers Disease.
Answers (1)
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I frequently speak to groups made up of family members and loved ones of people with serious mental illnesses. I always tell them the same thing:

The best caregiver takes care of himself first!

Here are some additional insights:

It’s estimated that 25 million Americans are primary caregivers for an elderly or chronically ill relative. Most never planned on assuming the role, but circumstances changed their plans. If you are in, or are contemplating, such a role, your success and happiness will directly relate to the awareness you bring to the situation.

Consider these suggestions:

  • Take Care of Yourself

-Identify and do those things that make you feel healthy and well, including social occasions and physical exercise.

-Take advantage of opportunities for respite care and time alone when someone else is in charge at home.

-Before you make the commitment to be a caregiver, prepare for potential lifestyle changes (work schedules, social life, money and resources) and honestly evaluate your readiness.

  • Educate Yourself

-Learn all that you can about your loved one’s illness and physical/mental capabilities.

-Read material offered by doctors and ask questions.

-Read books from the library and check out online resources so that you fully understand the details and potential changes in your loved ones health.

-Understand what the future holds before you commit to taking it on.

  • Be an Advocate

-You are a member of your loved one’s health care team. Your role is more important than anyone else’s. Speak out on your loved one’s behalf.

-Keep notes and logs of medications, symptoms, behavior changes, sleep and eating habits and cognitive skills. Use it to refresh your memory when speaking with doctors.

-Prepare your loved one’s Personal Health History and take it with you as you accompany him to appointments. Make sure his doctor is aware of what’s on it.

  • Involve Your Loved One

-The ability to make decisions is a basic freedom, so provide choices whenever possible–where to live– which cereals to eat–what to wear.

  • Preserve Dignity

-Respect your loved one’s right to make decisions about his life, and help him maintain a sense of control and privacy whenever possible.

-Listen to what he has to say, and pay attention to his worries and concerns.

-Provide help on your HIS terms, not yours. Tasks like dressing and bathing are personal and private.

-Encourage your loved one to retain as much control over his life as possible.

-Be understanding. Keep in mind that most people feel frustrated or unfairly burdened at some point.

  • Promote Independence

-If your loved one is still capable of performing certain activities, encourage him to do so.

-Encourage any effort at independence, no matter how small.

-Avoid treating your loved one like a child.

  • Ask for Help

-Take advantage of the help that’s available.

-Your family is your first resource. Let them know what they can and should do.

-Look to your religious community for aid and counsel.

-Attend caregiving support groups, or support groups for specific illnesses like Alzheimer’s, mental illness or heart disease.

-Encourage friends and family to visit and interact whenever they can.

By following these guidelines, you will maintain your own health, both physical and mental, while providing loving care to the person in your charge.



NOTICE: The information provided on this site is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your physician or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on Wellsphere. If you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.
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