How to Manage Caregiving
Most of us have been or will be a family caregiver for an older, sick, or disabled family member or friend. Maybe you don’t use the term “caregiver,” nor do you complain about it’s demands. The care you give is from love of a particular person, and carers do not expect anything in return. It’s a role that most people step into willingly.
Caregivers come from all areas of life. They are friends, neighbors, wives, partners, and husbands. The act of giving care calls on the daughters, sons, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren to look after another family member. And the most surprising fact, the tasks performed are provided without pay or any other form of compensation.
The Demands of Giving Care
Caregivers don’t pay enough attention to the burdens, which are substantial. And over time, the strains can negatively affect a person’s health and well-being. Those giving care can become exhausted, get sick, and experience loads of stressful situations.
At the onset of the role, it’s easy to remember that you’re not expected to know everything, but as time passes you may get lost in all of the demands it places on you.
Often, you’ll feel guilty and sometimes depressed. Your energy will run full blast one minute and diminish altogether the next. Caregivers put high expectations on themselves and assume the full responsibility, in addition to working a full-time job and managing a family of their own.
It’s no wonder that life spins out of control from time to time.
How to Prepare
Get organized, and the role can be bearable, possibly rewarding. One way is to treat the position like a job. It doesn’t mean to stop feeling compassionate and loving, it suggests that you manage the components and tasks as a critical part of your life, mindfully.
Make a Plan and Examine All the Parts – develop a road-map, a guide. It will help you stay on task, be more productive, efficiently manage time, and accomplish your caregiving goals. Here are a number of things that need your attention.
• Managing your parent’s or a relative’s finances
• Safety-proofing the home
• Setting up a power of attorney and other legal documents
• Making sure your relative is eating nutritious meals
• Helping a parent or loved one manage medications
• Setting up doctor’s appointments
• Coordinating transportation
• Synchronizing medical care
• Keeping the home in order
• Running errands
• And checking in several times a day with your relative
Ask for Help and Allow Others to Give Support – delegate tasks and assign tasks to others who are willing to help out. Make a schedule of tasks and assign them to family members and friends
• Be direct and say, “Could you please pick my mom’s medications at the pharmacy today?”
• Fill in the calendar by assigning duties, “Can you be in charge of preparing dinner for mom on Tuesdays?”
• Make doctor appointments a family affair. “Mom has an appointment with her oncologist; can you drive her and take notes at the meeting?”
Hire Outside Help When You Need It – if family and friends cannot help, hire home care help. These options can cost you, but it’s worth the trade-off of doing it all yourself and risking the care recipient’s health. Here is a list of what professional caregivers can do.
• Offer personal care activities like bathing, eating, dressing, toileting
• Accomplish household care activities like cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping
• Make sure health care needs are met through medication management, physician’s appointments, and physical therapy
• Provide emotional care by giving companionship, meaningful activities, conversation, reading a book
Take time to care for yourself. Caregivers deserve a break often. It will rejuvenate you, and you will do a better caring job. You may even enjoy it!
Carol Marak is a contributor for the senior living and health care market. She advocates older adults and family caregivers by writing on tough topics like chronic issues, senior care and housing. Find her work at AssistedLivingFacilities.org and HomeHealthcareAgencies.com and contact Carol on LinkedIn and Carol@SeniorCareQuest.com.