Showing posts with label caring for the elderly. Show all posts
Showing posts with label caring for the elderly. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Caregiver Burnout - Regain Your Life and Health

Millions of Baby Boomers across the nation are caregivers for a family member, whether that person is their elderly parent, a spouse, a handicapped child or another relative.  If you have cared for a sick loved one who had the flu or some other illness for a few days, imagine how demanding the experience would be if it continued for years.  It is not unusual for a caregiver to become exhausted, stressed, overwhelmed, depressed, lonely and, in some cases, the caregiver may even become ill themselves.

In addition, a caregiver who is married and responsible for their own family may find that devoting themselves to the care of an ill relative can take a toll on their other relationships.

As a result of the many problems which can affect a caregiver, it is important they learn how to take care of themselves, as well as the people under their care.  This balancing act can be essential if they want to maintain their own health.  Below are ideas to help caregivers regain their lives, keep themselves healthy and maintain their relationships, without abandoning the people who need their help.

Caregivers Need to Ask for Help

Check out respite care - Many communities offer a public adult daycare program.  This gives you the opportunity to drop off the person under your care for the day.  Often you will find that elderly people, even those with serious health problems or dementia, enjoy being able to get out of the house, spend time with other people, and engage in stimulating activities.  Meanwhile, you can use the day to run errands, schedule doctor's appointments, see friends or simply take a nap.  Adult daycare services are frequently offered on a sliding financial scale, so caregivers can pay an affordable amount based on their income.  In addition, some private nursing homes offer temporary stays on a space-available basis, which make it possible for you to leave an ill patient with them for a few days while you take a trip with your family.  This is an ideal solution when you need a break, but do not have anyone else in the family who can help you. It can also be a solution if you become sick, need to go into the hospital yourself, or have other problems which make it temporarily impossible for you to keep up your caregiver duties. 

Ask friends and family for help - I have a friend whose husband developed severe Parkinson's disease in his mid-60s.  He likes to sit at home all day and watch Westerns or football on TV.  He rarely speaks or engages with anyone.  Naturally, my friend is not comfortable leaving her husband alone at home.  As a result, she often asks friends and family members to simply come to her home and sit with her husband while he watches TV.  This gives her a break and the opportunity to get out of the house and do things for an hour or two several times a week.  If you know someone who is caring for a family member in a similar situation, reach out and offer to sit with their loved one occasionally.  It will just take a few hours of your time, and there is no better gift you can give a caregiver than a little of your time.

Say "Yes" When Someone Offers to Help - Many caregivers believe they are the only person who can take care of the patient under their care.  However, both you and the patient need to learn to accept help when it is offered.  You do not want to feel you are being held hostage by a demanding relative who will not let you out of their sight.  It is beneficial for both the caregiver and the patient when they allow other people to help as much as possible.  In addition, you are also helping the person who offered to help you.  People feel good about themselves when they do something nice for someone else, even if it only happens occasionally.  Having someone sit with your family member while they sleep or watch football on television is an easy way for your friend to help you and feel good about themselves at the same time.  Even if a friend is not comfortable staying alone with the patient, but they offer to bring over food or mow your lawn, accept the offer.  It is one less thing you will have to do.  Learn to be gracious and appreciative in accepting whatever help you receive.

Let the Patient Help Themselves as Much as Possible - The person under your care may not be able to do much for themselves, or they may be able to do some basic things such as feeding themselves or using the remote control for the TV.  Let them do as much as possible for themselves.  It will lessen their boredom and help them feel good about themselves.  It will also take some pressure off of you.  You can make their self-help easier if you make sure your home is as safe as possible.  You may want to install handrails in the bathroom, remove rugs which make it difficult for them to use a walker, order a remote control or telephone with extra large buttons, or make other simple adaptations to your home.  The more they can do for themselves, the easier it will be to care for them.

Caregivers Need to Take Care of Themselves

Stay in touch with friends - It is not enough that you find ways to get out of the house if you only use the time to buy groceries and run other essential errands.  You also need to spend time with your friends, go out to lunch, and keep up your favorite activities, whether that means staying involved with your place of worship or joining a book club.  Do not feel guilty about having fun.  In addition, chat on the phone with your friends whenever you cannot see them.  You will only resent the person under your care if you feel you had to give up everything and everyone important to you.

Pamper yourself - Whether you get an occasional massage or go away for the weekend, doing something special for yourself once in a while is essential.  Make a list of things you used to enjoy and try to schedule a few of those activities as often as you can.  Make appointments to get a manicure or have your hair done; go shopping; take a walk in the park. 

Join a caregiver support group - Many senior centers, community recreation departments and churches offer caregiver support groups. This is an excellent way to make new friends, share your feelings, and learn about community resources which could help you.  If you cannot find a support group near you, there are online groups available.

Take care of yourself - Make sure you take care of your own health.  Be sure to go to the doctor yourself, get exercise, take a relaxation class like yoga or meditation, eat well and get plenty of sleep, even if that means taking a short nap in the afternoons.  If you enjoy reading, exercising, gardening, spending time online or knitting, do not give up your favorite activities.  Set aside some time each day to engage in one of your favorite activities and take care of yourself. You cannot care for someone else if you become ill yourself.

Get all the information you can - You may want to purchase a helpful guide to being a caregiver.  If you are taking care of someone with dementia, a particularly helpful guide is:  "The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People with Alzheimer Disease, Other Dementias and Memory Loss."  You will find this book is an invaluable resource and will help you maintain your own sanity.

If you want to learn more about common health issues as you age, Medicare, Social Security, financial planning, where to retire and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Caring for Elder Orphans - Seniors Living Alone

Are you at risk of becoming an elder orphan?  These are people who reach retirement age unmarried, childless, and with no close relatives who can care for them if they become unable to care for themselves.  It is also possible to effectively be an elder orphan if you have adult children with mental, emotional, or physical problems which would make them incapable of caring you.  Careers and other situations could also mean your children may live too far away to be of much assistance.

In a poll conducted by Caring Right at Home, only 25 percent of the respondents indicated they were completely confident they would have adequate family support if they needed care in the future.  There is a good reason for this concern.  Today's average senior citizen will start retirement with approximately seven people in their family who could possibly help them.  By 2050, when many Baby Boomers begin hitting their eighties, that ratio is expected to drop to an average of fewer than three potential caregivers per senior citizen.  In fact, many Baby Boomers will have no one at all who will be able to help them.  People in this situation are known as Elder Orphans.

Elder Orphans May Decline and Die More Quickly

There have been several posts written on this blog about the importance of family, friends and social connections for those who hope to enjoy a long life and satisfying retirement.  People without those connections are much less likely to have positive outcomes.  Some of the problems they could experience are:

*  Hastened cognitive decline (dementia)
*  Faster functional decline (difficulty with self-care)
*  Mental health issues (such as depression)
*  Premature death

How Communities Can Help Elder Orphans

The negative outcomes listed above are not inevitable.  Communities can reach out to help their seniors; in addition, the individuals themselves can plan ahead and make arrangements for their future care.

People who do not have a support system as they age are often a hidden population.  They may be surrounded by neighbors and community members who have no idea how much they are struggling to survive.  Below are steps which communities can take to minimize the problem:

*  Authorities can educate their residents to be aware of the elderly in their neighborhoods so they can help authorities identify anyone who may need a helping hand.

*  Communities can also join the new "Age-in-Place Village" movement, which is simply a way to simplify and organize services and make programs more accessible to the elderly in the area.  These services might include recruiting volunteers to help with home repairs and transportation, organizing Meals on Wheels or hot meals at Senior Centers, and helping seniors find solutions to any other nutritional, housing, transportation and medical problems they may face.  Each person's needs will be different, but they could require help filing their tax returns, dealing with medical bills, finding appropriate housing, or hiring a caregiver. 

How Elder Orphans Can Help Themselves 

No one should face retirement and expect their local community to step in and take care of everything for them.  While local agencies may be helpful, everyone needs to take steps to protect themselves as they age ... especially if they are at risk of becoming an elder orphan.  Even those who have a spouse at the beginning of retirement may eventually discover themselves widowed, and those with adult children may ultimately find their children have their own problems and cannot do a good job of taking care of their parents, too.  In addition, children may live far away and only see their parents two or three times a year. As a result, they may not be aware of some of the problems their parents are having with day-to-day life.

Below are some of the things you can do to minimize your risk of becoming an elder orphan and having no one who is able to care for you on a consistent basis:

*  Consider purchasing a long-term care insurance policy while you are middle aged and still healthy.  The insurance will pay for you to move into a long-term care facility or have an in-home caregiver when you reach the point when you can no longer care for yourself.

*  Instead of a long-term care policy, you could also consider moving into a CCRC ... a Continuing Care Retirement Community.  Many people initially move into independent living apartments or homes in one of these communities.  Later, if you need skilled nursing or memory care, the contract you have with the CCRC will generally guarantee that they will care for you for the rest of your life.

*  Even if you do not buy long-term care insurance or move into a CCRC, you can still prepare for the future by doing everything possible to arrange your affairs so you are secure.  Talk to a financial planner and make sure you have a regular stream of income which will last the rest of your life.  Make alterations to your home so it will be safe and accessible, even if you have surgery or if you are temporarily incapacitated. You may consider purchasing a medical alert system which would make it possible for you to easily contact someone if you fall or become seriously ill. You should also investigate the available support services in your community, should you need them, including available transportation, local in-home care agencies, financial aid, and volunteer organizations.  In addition, check out commercial services such as Amazon and other online shopping services, meal delivery, mail order prescriptions, and laundry services. You should also make a contingency plan for getting whatever care you might need in the future.  Planning ahead will enable you to remain self-reliant for many years.

*  Finally, no matter what other plans you make for the future, be sure to expand your circle of friends.  If you have no family nearby, your friends can become closer than your family.  Friends can fill in the gaps when you need them.  You can share holidays together, give each other rides to doctor appointments, take care of one another's pets, and be an emotional support when you go through difficult times.  The more time you spend developing friendships, the better your future support system will be.

For more information about planning for retirement, CCRCs, long-term care insurance, finding a place to retire, changing family relationships, Social Security, Medicare and more, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Watch for my book, Retirement Awareness: 10 Steps to a Comfortable Retirement, which will be published by Griffin Publishing in 2018.

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Help For Caregivers - Reduce Caregiver Stress

If you are a Baby Boomer who is caring for elderly relatives in your home there are times, especially during the winter holidays, that may be especially stressful. 

In addition to being a caregiver for a senior citizen in your family, you may still have children living in your home.  If you do, they may expect holiday decorations, gifts and special meals that you feel they expect you to prepare.  If your children are adults, they may still assume you will put on the traditional holiday events they loved as children. 

In other cases, adult children may want you to come visit them and spend time with your grandchildren or other family members. 

All of these conflicting demands on your time can make your role as caregiver for an elderly parent or relative seem like a particularly heavy burden during the holidays.

While you may not be able to eliminate all of the stress that you are feeling as a caregiver, there are steps you can take to minimize your stress so you can actually enjoy your holidays and the time you spend with the rest of your family.

How to Reduce Caregiver Stress

Below are a few actions you should take, if possible, to relieve the stress you are experiencing.

Talk to your other family members and ask them to help you out.  If they want your home to be decorated, ask them to do it, especially if you still have teenagers or young adults living at home.  Heap praise on them, even if their efforts do not quite measure up to what you have done in the past.

Do not be a martyr, if you can avoid it.  For example, if there is a special event you want to attend, such as a child's school performance or dinner at a relative's home, do not feel that you will never be able to go.  Whenever possible, make the necessary arrangements.  Here are some ways you can manage that:

   * Ask friends or other family members if they can sit with your elderly relative for a few hours. 
   * Call an agency and see if you can temporarily hire a paid caregiver. 
   * Contact local nursing homes and see if they have a respite program where you can leave your family member for a few days and give yourself a break.  These respite programs are especially helpful when you want to take a trip to visit other family members.

See what services are available in your community to help you.  If you are feeling overwhelmed at of the year, call your local senior center and ask if they have an adult day care program.  Many communities offer these services for a very low fee.  Often elderly adults who suffer from dementia, depression, and other mental and physical problems really enjoy these adult daycare programs because of the opportunity it gives them to meet other senior citizens, while working on arts and crafts with their new friends.  In fact, these programs have been shown to significantly lift the spirits of many seniors.  Just as important, they give caregivers the time they need to take care of themselves.

Do not feel as though you need to use any free time you carve out to care for everyone else in your family.  Instead, when you get help, spend at least part of the time taking care of yourself.   Get your nails or hair done.  Sign up for a yoga or exercise class.  Socialize with friends.  Take a nap.  Read a novel.  Caregivers need to take time to energize themselves.  If they don't, they will eventually discover that they are too overwhelmed to care for anyone else.  Put yourself first every chance you get.

Take advantage of all the local services you can.  For example, if you are hosting a holiday dinner in your home, feel free to order a precooked meal.  Other services you should check out are grocery delivery, dry cleaning pick up, online banking, mail order prescriptions, etc.  Set up your life so that you need to do as few mundane errands as possible.

Finally, make sure you get enough sleep.  Do not get up before dawn or stay up after everyone else has gone to bed in order to clean your house, wrap Christmas presents, prepare meals or do anything else.  Your sleep is more important than these chores.

If you want to be able to care for anyone else, you need to care for yourself.  Otherwise, you may end up sick and in need of a caregiver, too.  This is definitely a risk we take when we spend too much time putting others ahead of ourselves all the time.  You are important, too!

You may also be interested in reading:

Planning for Long Term Medical Care
Patient Safety in the Hospital Near You
Aging and Tips to Prevent Hip Injuries
Living with your Kids

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