What comes to mind when you hear the word, ‘Caregiver?” Most people immediately think of a person who takes care of an adult – usually a senior or a person who has special physical needs.
In one sense of the word, we are all ‘Caregivers.’ We care for ourselves and others in our daily routines. We meet schedules, do chores, run errands, and assist family with everything from homework to toilet and bathing assistance.
But in the real sense of the word, it means one who gives unconditionally to another, usually a family member, who needs special love, care, and attention. Some of these people are infants, children, teens, and can also be adults.
Then there is the duration of the care – long term care for the end days of an elderly person – or short term for one recovering from surgery and treatments such as chemo or radiation. And short term care is just something that all families go through. Many times family members need some help and assistance after an accident.
Many of our young, strong, and otherwise healthy soldiers come home from the battlefield with such serious injuries they, too, will need long term care.
Let’s take a look here at long time care of the elderly or disabled.
There are parents all over the world who find themselves sandwiched between two or more generational responsibilities. While they have themselves and their immediate family to care for, they also find that their aging parents (or other relatives) need just about as much attention as an infant or young child.
However, they find caring for people who have their own rights, their own opinions, and who are set in their own ways of doing things much more difficult. But this can be just as hard on the recipient of such care as well.
So often parental caregiving comes at mid-life for grown children who find them aging a little themselves; and who are still in the throes of raising their own family – many times they have teens who are going through a different phase of life (who have their own issues in growing up) while their grandparents are growing old and their parents are growing tired.
Caregiving is hard, and caregivers of chronically ill people often feel stress. They are “on call” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you’re caring for someone with mental problems like Alzheimer’s disease it can be especially difficult. Seeking help from others and even support groups can help. Sometimes it just helps to know that someone, somewhere understands.
Then there are caregivers who are dealing with other life issues with ill children, physically disabled children, and children who can do little or nothing for themselves.
There is a broad spectrum of caregivers which expands to a variety of patients; but generally their duties are:
Food shopping and cooking
Going to the toilet, bathing and dressing
Providing company and emotional support
Making and keeping medical appointments
Dealing with finances – either the affairs of an adult – or expenses of caring for a younger patient.
While dealing with one’s own personal agenda, illnesses, tiredness, boredom, and frustration of trying to be all things to all people, it can rob the caregiver of being able to do anything for themselves.
When finances allow, it is wonderful to employ outside paid help so that the primary caregiver can get out and get a break. But paid help or not, the caregiver needs a life as well; even if it is just to take a nice, long hot bath, at the end of the day.
Many times the cost of outside help is just not possible. But it can be very beneficial to have other family members contribute time, effort, and energy to help bridge the gap in caring for a mutual family member; like an elderly parent. But many times that is not possible; either for an only child or for a parent who does not live in close proximity to all the grown children. Sadly, most of the time caregiving will rest upon the shoulders of just one in the family.
When you are up to your elbows in the giving of the care, it is hard to stop, look, and listen. But forcing that time into the caregiver’s routine will in the long run make for a better situation for all concerned.
Stop: Stop each day to access each new day. Sometimes a routine is the only way; but many times trying to adhere to a strict routine for the sake of the routine can only cause more problems and frustration. Make a plan and work the plan – but be flexible to make the plan work for you.
Stop to identify as much as possible with the patient realizing that while they may be disabled in some way, they are still people with the need for human touch, human conversation, human acceptance and not be treated like a “pet” or a child if they are adult.
Once when a lady had a broken hip and was sitting in a wheel chair toward recovery, everyone would lean way over and speak loudly as if the she were deaf or senile. A lady questioning her looked at her daughter to ask questions; and the daughter said, “Ask her she just has a broken hip, she is not incompetent.” Dignity is very important to elders.
Stop everyday and access how you are doing, what you are doing, and how you are doing it. When the same problems continue to arise, it is time to change something. Doing things the same way just for the sake of doing it the same way can weigh heavy on both the caregiver and the one receiving the care.
While children with disabilities require a certain amount of physical involvement, caring for adults who have lived long and productive lives, one must realize that what this too will involve some physical exertion. But it will also involve a lot of emotional investment as well.
Stop thinking of yourself as a victim if at all possible. Victims do not perform very well – not for themselves or others. Think of what you are doing as a mission, profession, and acts of love and not un-daunting duties. Thinking of this as a duty can have a souring effect and cause a root of bitterness to spring up.
Stop insisting that everything be done your way. Accept help, ask for help outright, and let others know what you expect of them in the situation – both the patient and others who live in the home or who are associated with the patient are more apt to help if they know what you are asking of them.
Look at each day as a new day leaving behind all the pain and sorrow of the yesterdays that is possible. Carrying even a little bit more baggage day by day soon becomes an albatross around your neck and prevents you from dealing with today.
Look for short cuts, ways to minimize large tasks, look for help in all the right places. Look to programs that are available through government agencies, volunteer groups, look for help from any and everyone who can contribute over the course of a long term care giving situation.
Even small children can help save you many steps during the day by fetching things, answering the phone, and even spending time with the patient. This is a most wonderful way to help youngsters feel needed and important as a member of the family. They can learn so very much from their elders even if they may not be as spry as they once were.
Look for assistance in areas where you have no expertise. Look to the physicians, the therapist, or the local senior citizens centers for help and ideas. Look for resources that your patient is entitled to – such as home nursing care for specific things such as monitoring blood pressure, checking glucose, treating open wounds, or other things home nurses are qualified to handle.
Look for ways to procure equipment that will help you help your loved one – bedside commodes, potty chairs over the toilet, hospital beds, wheelchairs, walkers, or even exercise equipment to help keep the patient as strong as possible. The stronger they are, the more they can help themselves.
Listen to the advice of others whether you take it or not – sometime you might learn something that will help. Listen to the patient even if you hear the same thing over and over. Challenge yourself to listen attentively and not make them feel like they are only a burden to you and to the world.
Depression is a major part of the illnesses that elders face when they can no longer live their normal active lives. If possible, set aside a particular time to just sit and listen to them and help steer the conversation toward memories, their accomplishments and how much they have contributed to their families and to the world.
Listen to the doctors and nurses with reason; but remember it is the patient’s desire and comforts that should be considered. Listen to other family members who want to help; but who just seem to always do and say the wrong thing. To these if you have to – listen half-heartedly.
When others make suggestions that they think is a great idea; ask when can they start? Listen to the pharmacist in dealing with routine drug instructions and directions.
Listen to your own inner self while trying to decide what is best for everyone concerned. Listen to your own body and emotional stability. Walk away when you have go – go for a ride – go shopping – or just go out into the yard for a little while when you feel everything is crushing in on you.
Listen to the needs of others in your family and explain, the more they help with Grandma or Grandpa, the more the whole family can do and accomplish. Listen to your spouse who can look at the situation from a different perspective. They can sometimes see the problem and the solution better because they are not so closely involved. Ask for their advice (and help) often.
You can find an abundance of help at this link. Be sure to check it out – bookmark it and try as much of the information as you can to make for a better you and for a better experience in being a caregiver. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/caregivers.html
Also you can read the proclamation signed by President Obama to commemorate November, 2010, as National Care Giver’s Month. http://www.caregiving.com/2010/11/president-obama-declares-november-national-family-caregivers-month-2/
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