Monday, April 18, 2022

Self-Care for Caregivers of Elderly Family Members

 Millions of Americans, as well as people around the world, find themselves caring for an elderly relative.  What makes this even more difficult is that caregivers are frequently not young adults, themselves. Often, the caregivers are people in their 50s, 60s or 70s who still have a living parent, sibling or other relative who needs care and regular attention. In addition, they could be part of the "sandwich generation," which means they might also still be supporting a young adult child. Unfortunately, this means the caregivers may also have their own health issues and problems which they need to deal with.

So what can you do to survive years of caregiving for another person?  Practicing self-care is essential if you want to preserve your own health. It is important to remember that you cannot do a good job of taking care of someone else, if you are not taking care of yourself.  

As a result, this month's guest post is from Jenn Walker, who has put together some terrific ideas on how to take care of yourself, while caring for someone else at the same time.   Her guest post is below:

Caring for Elderly Family Members at Home

by Jenn Walker

Caregiving is a demanding role on its own, but it can become even more challenging when you are responsible for the care of an elderly family member. In some cases, elderly family members may require long-term care which eats up a lot of your personal time. This can place a significant strain on both your personal life and your relationship with the family member who is in need of care. Still, there are ways to make caregiving easier for everyone involved. 

In this article, we will discuss some of the best ways to reduce caregiver stress, as well as how to make your elderly family member as comfortable as possible. From helpful mental health practices to respite care, there are more than enough ways to be an effective caregiver for your loved one without destroying your own health and peace of mind.

Educate Yourself on Caregiving

Family caregivers are often thrown into the role without any substantial caregiving experience, leading to immense stress as they figure out how to care for their elderly family member. Whether you have been a caregiver for a few days or a few months, online caregiving resources can be a great way to educate yourself about caregiving best practices. Some in-home care agencies also offer educational services which will help you become a more effective and confident caregiver.  You may find it helpful to take a short two or three week class from one of these agencies before taking on the responsibility for caring for your loved one, or you may want to hire an outside agency for a few weeks until you feel prepared to handle things on your own. 

Make the House Comfortable

As you learn the basics of caregiving, it is important to make the house as comfortable as possible for your elderly family member. Depending on their situation, a senior family member may have limited mobility or persistent discomfort which makes daily life more complicated than it was before. Whether they need additional handrails throughout the house, or furniture which is easier to get in and out of, accommodating those needs will make them more comfortable and make long-term care much more bearable.

You can find a large selection of home safety equipment online (Ad) which will meet the specific needs of your loved one, whether they need bars or a seat in the shower, a safety rail for the toilet, a portable wheelchair ramp, a lift chair, adaptive eating utensils or other safety equipment.  You can find all these items, and more, online and make your home a safer, more comfortable place for your loved one. (Ad)  These items might also make your life easier, as a caregiver.  The more the patient can do for themselves, the less work for you. 

Find a Balance Between Caregiving and Your Personal Life

Caregiving can put a lot of mental and physical stress on caregivers, as it often requires them to shirk many of their personal responsibilities for the sake of their patient’s care. Many family caregivers cannot abandon all of their family and personal responsibilities, however, so it is important to find some kind of balance between your personal life and your caregiving tasks for your loved one.

 If your elderly family member’s situation allows it, it can be beneficial to designate specific times for caregiving which will allow you to work or handle other responsibilities in the meantime. That way, you can still hold a job or handle other responsibilities, while also ensuring that your family member gets the care they need.

Seek Help From the Whole Family

When you are caring for an elderly family member, it is vitally important to remember that you are probably not the only person in the family who can provide caregiving assistance. If you are in a long-term care situation, calling on other family members can take significant strain off you while ensuring that the family member who is in need of care still gets the help they need.

Depending on how many family members you can coordinate with, you could work in shifts with other relatives so all of the necessary care responsibilities are evenly distributed. Whether everyone chooses a specific day or you alternate each month, it will lessen the personal stress of caregiving and bring your family closer together in the long run.

Find Respite Care Services

If your caregiving responsibilities have placed an unbearable amount of stress on your life, respite care services are an excellent choice for assistance. With in-home respite care, a professional caregiver provides all of the caregiving your elderly family member requires while you take time to relax and manage your personal life. Temporary respite care within a nursing home is also an option, which allows your senior family member to stay in a facility centered on their care while you spend a few days away from them.  This can be very helpful if you need to travel and cannot leave your family member home alone.  

Your elderly family member deserves the care they need, but you also deserve to have some balance and serenity in your life. Long-term caregiving isn’t always easy, but with the proper resources, it doesn’t have to become an undue burden.

About the Author

Jenn Walker is a freelance writer, blogger, dog-enthusiast, and avid beachgoer operating out of Southern New Jersey.

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