Most family caregivers don’t plan or study to be caregivers ahead of time.
Many don’t even consider themselves caregivers.
What do they consider themselves?
Children . . .grandchildren . . .spouses . . .
Well one big reason is the call and need for elder care often comes unexpectedly.
At the age of 79 Sarah had a heart attack.
Her daughter Karen got the call in the middle of the night. Her mother was in the emergency room, about to be admitted to the Coronary Care Unit.
Her mother would be unable to go home alone from the hospital.
In a heartbeat . . .Karen became a caregiver.
Caring for someone else is hard . . .especially when you don’t feel prepared.
Here are some tips to help you in your caregiving responsibilities.
What is a caregiver?
Simply put, a caregiver is someone who looks after another person because he can no longer look after himself. The caregiver may be paid or unpaid.
And they can be professional . . .family . . .or informal caregivers.
Caregivers are needed for a variety of reasons including illness, injury and aging. It may be a temporary condition or permanent.
In the United States, there are millions of caregivers. It’s estimated there are at least 52 million household caregivers providing care for someone 20 years old or older in the U.S. alone.
When you’re a caregiver, you know there’s no instruction manual provided.
And no, it’s not too late to prepare even when you’re in the midst of caregiving. Although your time is likely more limited with the added responsibilities you’ve assumed.
Here are some tips to help you start . . .
1. Claim caregiving
While you may not have chosen caregiver as a role for yourself, you can still make it your own.
You bring yourself to your caregiving. And only you can do it your way.
When you go beyond just accepting to also claiming it as yours, you’ll likely find the energy of your burden shift.
Sometimes it’s sudden and immediate . . .and sometimes it’s a more gradual shift in energy.
In claiming it, you may find doors opening to discover it’s no longer as big a burden or maybe it’s no longer a burden at all.
You may also find your purpose in caregiving . . .maybe even beyond caregiving.
2. Learn about caregiving
Discover everything you can about caregiving and the resources you have.
Information on caregiving is available on the Internet, in books, in magazines, and local health care providers including hospitals and nursing homes.
Not all services are available in all areas.
The health care provider for the person you’re caring for may have up-to-date information. If you live in the United States, you may also want to check with your local county or city Area Agency on Aging. They should be in the government section of your phone book, possibly under “Aging” or “Health and Human Services.”
While you may not need assisted living . . .a housekeeper . . .or more skilled
care today . . .knowing the available options can make both today’s decisions and future decision easier — and less stressful for all concerned.
And while you’re talking to the health care provider, you may want to see what your options are if — or when — the disease or condition progresses. Knowing what to expect can help you ask the right questions.
Learn about the condition of the person you’re giving care to from their physician or other medical provider.
You should ask what to expect as they recover from an injury or as their disease or condition progresses.
Having an idea what may occur can give you time to provide alternatives. And prevent you from being unduly stressed and caught off guard.
With caregiving — and its associated stresses and responsibilities — the last thing you need is a surprise!
4. Create your support system
Caregiving can quickly become a 24-hour-a-day, 7-days-a-week j-o-b.
One person cannot do it alone. Even if you just need a short break, you need to be able to take it.
Many experts recommend regular respite care or mini-vacation breaks to prevent overwhelm.
You need to explore your options before caregiving becomes overwhelming and you risk getting ill.
Each situation is unique. You may need someone to help you with laundry or meals. Perhaps someone’s available to take over the caregiving for a weekend or nights.
And maybe someone can provide other support such as financial support, or grocery shopping, or something else?
You may be surprised at how supportive your family, your friends, and your church can be when they know you need help.
Reducing stress makes caregiving more enjoyable and less of a burden.
5. Include your care recipient
Just because you’re caring for someone, don’t forget to include her in decisions.
She may have information you don’t know about. She may also have definite ideas about what kind of treatment she wants . . .or doesn’t want!
Asking her what she wants and keeping her involved helps her feel important. Often the person you care for doesn’t want to be an invalid or a burden.
Remember just because you’re taking care of someone doesn’t mean she should be treated as a child. She may be able to participate in her care more than you think.
Often there’s little or no time to prepare for caregiving. And many times caregivers need to learn all they can in a hurry.
Caregiving can be less stressful . . .especially when you know what to expect and are prepared for possible problems.
Now there’s a membership designed just for caregivers. Where you can find answers and discuss challenges. Get your trial membership for 7 days for only a penny!
From my heart to yours… Laugh Well, Love Well and Live Well!
Ina Gilmore, M.D. (Retired)
“The Knitting Dr.”
Founder, www.CaregivingWithPurpose.com and www.TheKnittingYarn.com
Ambassador of Caregiving at www.HowToLiveOnPurpose.com