If you are caring for a family member you need all the help and support you can get. The job is not easy. It can put a strain on you physically, emotionally and financially. These 12 tips for family caregivers can help.
Join A Local or On-Line Caregiver Support Group
Some people are hesitant to join a support group. They are afraid that they may be forced to share information they are not comfortable sharing. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most groups encourage sharing but understand you may not be ready. While each caregiver support group may be run a bit differently there is a lot a value for you.
As a family caregiver, you will be able to tap into, the wisdom and knowledge of other caregivers who may have already walked the path you are now on. These people can be a great source of referrals to physicians and other elder care professionals who can help.
“Just knowing I wasn’t alone in this was comforting for me.” ~Sarah
Use Technology Tools To Help
There are so many technology tools that can help you with your caregiving duties. New on the scene, grocery delivery or pick up service. This can save you a ton of valuable time. Kay used to spend about 3 hours taking her mom to get groceries. Elderly people do not move fast. Add to that fact the extra drive time and you have spent the whole morning on one task. Having the groceries delivered or ready for pick up when you arrive can make a huge difference in your day. What would you do with an extra 2 or 3 hours?
Another tech tool that helps caregivers is Lotsa Helping Hands. This is a Care Community that you set up. There is no charge for families. You will be able to create a care calendar to coordinate meals, rides to the doctor or other appointments or just visits from friends.
The calendar is color coded so friends and family can quickly see what is needed and when and what needs have already been met. An added benefit is that Lotsa will send reminders to those who have volunteered their time so nothing falls through the cracks.
Learn How To Effectively Communicate With Doctors
This is a problem that affects the quality of your care and the care of your loved one. Communication is the key to the best possible care. So, what should you do?
- Come Prepared- Write down what you want to discuss. Be as specific as possible.
- Prioritize your concerns. 50 questions may be a bit much. What are the top 3 or 4?
- Ask the doctor if you can email or text them if you need further clarification. Many doctors are open to this type of communication.
Consider Seeing A Therapist
If you find yourself sinking into depression, reach for help from a professional. Caregiving is hard work. And sometimes your siblings and other family members can make it harder.
Jenny was working really hard to care for her mother. She had pretty much given up everything. Her job, her friends, her former life had all be put aside so Jenny could move in with mom to care for her.
“I didn’t want mom to be in one of those homes! I promised I would take care of her and that is what I intended to do.” Said Jenny
But the truth was as Jenny’s mom progressed deeper into her Alzheimer’s disease it continued to get harder. Mom had a lot of behavioral issues like shadowing and sundowners. As if these issues weren’t hard enough, Jenny’s brother Bob began giving her a hard time.Bob felt as if Jenny was using Mom as a meal ticket. He accused her of not wanting to work but rather just “living off mom’s money”
“It hurt”, Jenny told me. “All I have ever wanted to do was to give Mom the best care possible.”
Working with a therapist Jenny learned how to more effectively communicate with her brother. She also learned how to let go of those things she was unable to control. As such Jenny decided that maybe it was time to look for other care options for her mother. Though she would still play a huge role in overseeing Mom’s care, with help, she would now be able to be her daughter again.
Talk to your doctor about this first but a lot of caregivers will say they do not have time to exercise. But do you have the time to be ill?
Regular exercise has been shown to alleviate stress and symptoms of depression. And the key is it doesn’t have to take a long time. In fact, there are a lot of exercise videos available online. With these, you will be able to exercise right where you are. No need to go to the gym. Some of the exercises you may also be able to do with the person you care for.
Dawn started doing a chair yoga class with her Mom. Deb was 89 and could no longer walk. She also had dementia. But the two were able to do chair yoga. Dawn connected her computer to the TV and logged into a free chair yoga class for wheelchair-bound individuals. There are hundreds of different videos to choose from.
Not only did it feel great to do the yoga but it was a bonding time for mother and daughter. Dawn began to notice her stress level decrease. More importantly, she noticed that her mother had less anxiety. The class was just 10 minutes and could be done one or more times during the day. Win/win!
Use Prayer and Meditation
“Waking up 30 minutes earlier each day actually gave me more energy throughout the day,” Kay remarked.
Using the time before he dad woke up to pray and meditate helped Kay to start her day on a positive note. She chose the early morning hours because it allowed her uninterrupted time to pray and reflect. Kay said she used her prayer time to thank God for the good in her life and to ask for more good for herself and the one she cared for. She also asked for guidance and help to make the best care decisions for her loved one.
Get All Of Your Legal Documents In Order
Take the time to talk with an Elder Care Attorney. Make sure you understand what legal documents you need to have in place. Not having the right documents could cause you a tremendous amount of added stress in the middle of a crisis. Elizabeth Hilbun and The Hilbun Law Firm regularly hold complimentary workshops in the Cypress, Texas area. Chances are there is an attorney near you that offers workshops also.
Just Say YES! To Offers Of Help
Caregivers are notorious for saying, “Oh that’s okay. We’re fine” when someone asks if they can help. What do you think your life would be like if you started accepting the help that was offered? My guess is that it would take a lot of stress off of your shoulders.
So, when someone says, “Let me know if I can help you anytime” be ready with a task. Instead of your usual response, you could try something like, “That is awesome. I am really feeling overwhelmed right now. Would you be available to pick up a few items at the grocery store for me? It’s hard to take Mom to the store these days and I can’t leave her alone.”
Organize Medical Information
Getting everything organized will help when a crisis hits. And you know it is probably not if - but when. Having all of the information handy when you need it will take a lot of stress out of the situation. And furthermore, may also ensure that your loved one receives the best care possible.
Your system can be done on your computer, the internet or a notebook. The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) has systems to help you get started. Go to www.myphr.com.
Have regular check-ups with your doctor
Take the time to get your annual check-up. And more often if you have a medical condition. Not getting your checkups will put both you and the person you care for at risk. Karen complained that she could not take the time off to go to the doctor.
“Dad needs me and counts on me to be there. He won’t let anyone else help him” said Karen
When Karen had a heart attack there was no one who was familiar with Dad’s routine that could step in. Karen had tried to control everything and now she had no control. Having someone step in to help you so you can take time off to go to the doctor is so important. Caring for your own health will allow you to be there for your loved one.
Eat nutritious and healthy meals
Again, talk to your doctor before changing your diet. Feeding your body nutritious meals can help you to stay healthy and strong. Sometimes, however, you are spent at the end of the day and just don’t feel as if you can muster the energy to cook.
The good news is there are a lot of ways to eat healthy without a lot of cooking involved. A lot of grocery stores like our local HEB offer some great options in pre-made healthy meals. You can pick up a salad, salmon, and a variety of meats and vegetables already prepared. Grab some extra fruit while you are there to have some good snacks during the day.
Don’t forget about the crock pot either. There are hundreds of good recipes on the internet that may only take 10 to 20 minutes to prepare. Stick everything in the crock-pot and forget about it until dinner. Or ask your friends and family if they would be willing to prepare a meal or two each week for you.
Celebrate Every Day!
So many times, caregivers are exhausted at the end of the day. All they can seem to remember is what didn’t go right or what they should have done. Turn this around by taking a few minutes to reflect on what did go right. Celebrate the small wins every day and you will start noticing a shift in how you are feeling.