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Providing for Loved Ones: Tips and Advice for Caregivers

Jul-05-2018 | Alzheimer's Care, Caregiver Service, Dementia Care, Elderly Care, Long Term Care, Senior Care Services,

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Approximately 43.5 million caregivers provided unpaid care to an adult or child in 2015, and roughly 34.2 million of those caregivers provided aid to someone 50 or older. Some caregivers provided care for their spouse, parents, or other family members, while others cared for a neighbor or long-time friend. Tasks can include providing transportation, shopping for groceries, cooking meals, assisting with bathing and grooming, cleaning, and more. Being a caregiver is both demanding and rewarding. It takes a lot of patience and preparation, but most caregivers (83 percent, to be exact) report a positive experience.

Home Modifications

Home modifications improve physical accessibility for people with disabilities and/or older adults who choose to age in place. They can also make it easier for caregivers to assist the older or disabled individuals. Some modifications are simple, such as installing grab bars in the bathroom. Other modifications require a bit more work but are still fairly simple, such as installing a ramp for the entry of the home. Modifications can also be costly and require professional installation, such as a stairlift, elevator, or walk-in bathtub.

Balancing Act

While caring for a family member or friend can be a rewarding experience that demonstrates love and commitment, it can also cause the caregiver to feel exhausted and worried. With continuous care demands and inadequate resources, the caregiver can feel extremely stressed. Caregivers are more likely to have a chronic illness than people who aren’t caregivers, and to make matters worse, they are less likely to practice preventive health care and self-care behaviors.

One of the most important parts of caring for someone else is to take care of yourself first. That may seem counterintuitive, but consider that when an oxygen mask descends in front of you on an airplane, the first rule is to put your own oxygen mask on before you assist anyone else. If you’re not healthy and well off, then you cannot properly care for others.

Managing stress in a healthy way is a good place to start. Instead of waiting until you’re completely overwhelmed, recognize the early warning signs of being overstressed, which include irritability, sleep problems, and forgetfulness.

Identify sources of stress, but remember you can only change yourself; you cannot change other people or their illnesses. Lastly, find a way to work through your stress, whether it’s through yoga, meditation, exercise, gardening, or just meeting a friend for coffee.

Assistance with Care

A common sentiment among caregivers is thinking or worrying that another person couldn’t care for their loved one as well as they can. But you don’t have to do everything yourself, and other people are capable of helping. Research agencies in your area and consider enlisting their home health help. You may also consider moving your loved one into an assisted living community.

“Assisted living facilities allow individuals to remain independent as long as possible in an environment that maximizes the person’s autonomy, dignity, privacy, and safety, as well as emphasizes family and community involvement,” says the National Caregivers Library. The individual has access to help 24 hours a day, if they need it, but they’re also able to perform many tasks on their own. The apartment-style accommodations have some safety modifications already in place, such as wider doorways and grab bars. Before moving day, ensure your loved one’s room has the proper modifications for his or her unique circumstances.

Moving day is stressful, packing and unpacking are taxing, and making such a big change is daunting. Hiring help for the move can alleviate some of these issues. Check out local movers to make the moving process as easy as possible. Professional movers will move all boxes and furniture, which means you don’t have to worry about the risk of injuring yourself or your loved one. Some also offer assistance with packing and unpacking, which eliminates even more stress. Call several professionals in your area to compare moving costs for each company.

Although you’ll feel emotionally overwhelmed and physically exhausted at times, knowing that you’re helping someone else live a better life is gratifying. You can feel a sense of giving back to someone who has cared for you previously, such as a parent. Whether you provide the care or find assistance providing care, you’ll feel satisfaction in knowing that your loved one is getting excellent care.

Credit: June Duncan for Polish Care Services

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