Important Tips For Caregivers
Caregivers of aging parent(s) or those facing the challenges of assisting a loved one or friend who is chronically ill, disabled or elderly are growing in numbers. As a caregiver, you are one of the 22 million Americans who care for an older adult. Caregivers provide 80 percent of in-home care, but unlike nurses and home health aids, they are mostly unpaid for their labor of love.
Dr. Elizabeth Clark, executive director of the National Association of Social Workers says “Care giving is a difficult job that can take a toll on relationships, jobs and emotional well-being. Those who care for others need to be sure to take care of themselves, as well.”
Here are some important tips for caregivers:
1. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help
We tend to wait until we are in crisis before asking for help and consultation. Seek out the help of a licensed clinical social worker or other trained professional. Asking for help is actually a sign of inner strength, not weakness. Recognizing your own limitations is an important quality to have as a caregiver. Care giving is not a sprint, but a marathon with an unknown finish line, so you need to pace yourself accordingly. Ask for help when you recognize the signs that you need some assistance, such as stress, anxiety, or exhaustion.
2. It’s Not Easy to Tell Your Parents What to Do
The most difficult thing about caring for a parent is the day you have to tell them they need to have help, they can no longer drive or they may have to move from their home. Discussing with them long-term care wishes and desires before any decline happens, is ideal.
Unfortunately, for most caregivers, including me, the discussion happened when the decline was already in progress. If you’ve listened to my earlier podcasts, you know the struggle I had with my mom. (She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s). My dad was far more open to making a change than my mom was. She resisted it for quite some time; even long after the move to live with me.
She not only resisted the change of moving out of her home, she also resisted the change of allowing me to help take care of her. For example, telling her when it was time to take a shower was one of the things she would challenge me on. Interestingly enough, when my dad passed away, she became much more agreeable to accepting my help and guidance. I think she somehow knew then how much she needed me, since she no longer could depend on my dad.
3. Take Care of Your Mental Health
It is not unusual to feel frustrated with your parents when they refuse your input and help. Seek a referral to a professional who can help you cope with your personal issues and frustrations. If you’re unable to do that, consider joining a support group in your area so you are able to “vent” with other caregivers that understand your frustration and challenges. Another great benefit to joining a support group is you’ll have the opportunity to form new friendships. These new relationships can be a tremendous asset when you’re feeling alone or isolated from the world due to your caregiver responsibilities.
Exercise is a wonderful way to clear your mind and relieve stress. It also does wonders for your physical health. Even if it’s just taking a brisk walk first thing in the morning, it can help set the tone for your day, and give you the energy you need to tackle anything that comes along with a clear head. If your loved one is able, invite them to walk with you, or use this time as a time for yourself.
4. Stay Informed
We live in a world of constant change. Medications and treatments are constantly changing and the only way to keep up-to-date is to stay informed with the latest news. Attend local caregiver conferences, participate in support groups, speak with friends and relatives, and talk with professionals in the field of gerontology and geriatrics.
As a caregiver of a loved one with Alzheimer’s, those changes can occur much more frequently. I set out to keep my mom as independent as possible for as long as possible. When she demonstrated that she was no longer able to do certain things for herself, adjustments needed to be made.
There were times I felt like I was always taking something away from her. It was always for her best interest, but it didn’t feel great. I did it secretly; when she wasn’t looking. I always thought she would miss what I was taking away. She never did. She never missed a single thing I removed from her possession. If there is a silver lining to this terrible disease, perhaps that is it.
5. Take Time Out
Caregivers who experience feelings of burnout need to accept that occasionally they may need a break from their loved one in order to provide him or her with the best care. This is one I struggled with probably the most. I volunteered to take care of my mom; something which my family adamantly opposed. So, I didn’t feel like I could ask them to watch mom while I took a break.
In the last couple years, when my sister would make her annual visit, rather than go out with her, I stayed behind when she took mom out. It was the best decision and one I wish I had made much sooner. I didn’t ask for a break. I took one. Because I realized the real reason my sister wanted me to go along was so she didn’t have to be responsible for mom.
Once a year though, is not enough for a little break. It was only about 6 – 8 hours long. There was one time when a dear friend offered to sit with mom while I went shopping. I remember the feeling of freedom I felt during those few hours. Caregivers should schedule time away: 2 or 3 days per year (minimum); either consecutive or taken individually. It would have made a huge difference for me.
Humor and laughter are tremendous healers. Not only for you as the caregiver, but for your loved one, as well. They often mirror our mood. I noticed this as a young mother caring for my kids. If I was in a bad mood, they seemed to mirror what I was feeling. When I was happy and laughing, so were they.
It’s interesting the same principle applies as a family caregiver. The more joy you have as a caregiver, the more your loved one will feel joy, too, and reflect that back to you, which makes things much more pleasant for both of you.
Make it a point to find something to laugh about every single day. Subscribe to a YouTube channel that has funny videos or jokes. Share them with your loved one so you can laugh together. There’s just nothing like shared laughter. Those little shared moments of laughter will be treasured by you long after your loved one is gone.
6. Hire Help
If possible, you may want to hire help. The most important thing is to find trustworthy people to provide assistance. Use recommended home care agencies, talk with friends about their experiences and interview professionals before deciding on the one you are going to retain.
I was never able to afford to hire anyone to help me, but I sure wanted to many, many times. When Hospice came in to assist me, it was wonderful. They took care of the bathing, dressing, and feeding. If you’re able to hire someone to take care of the time consuming and physically taxing chores, do it. That way, you’ll be able to enjoy the time with them without feeling like you have to start getting ready to get those chores done.
7. Take Care Of Your Body
Caregivers tend to deny themselves for the sake of their loved one. Loss of quality sleep, poor diet, and feeling like you’re in a constant mental fog are all symptomatic of most caregivers. When was the last time you actually had a dream at night? I know for me, it was more years than I could remember. I wasn’t sleeping soundly, so the quality of the sleep I was getting wasn’t good, which lead to more health challenges. You see, when you sleep soundly (and dream), your body is able to heal the little things that are wrong before you’re even aware of them.
With poor quality of sleep combined with the stress that caregivers experience, your body starts to age faster. That’s my opinion, but also my experience as a caregiver for over 12 years. What can you do? Well, there’s a wonderful product on the market now that is helping hundreds of thousands of people turn back the hands of time. I tried it out and it is amazing. I’m dreaming vivid dreams, wrinkles are diminishing (yay!), and most important to me, I feel better overall. I have more energy, can think more clearly, and no longer experience those afternoon slumps.
What is it?
It’s an HGH gel; applied to the thin areas of your skin twice per day. What it does is actually kick-start your pituitary gland to produce human growth hormone again. Most people beyond the age of 30, have little to no human growth hormone in their system, and so the signs of aging start to show up; poor quality sleep, reduced stamina, brain fog, wrinkles, graying hair, diminished muscle strength, to name a few, and for us women, menopausal symptoms. The gel takes care of all of those, over time. In fact, it’s not at all uncommon for hair to start growing in at it’s natural color!
So, here’s my shameless plug – when you purchase through me, you’ll also get my exclusive bonuses that will help you take better care of yourself. Just to be transparent, I also make a little money when you purchase through me, which helps with the cost of producing this podcast. So it’s a way you can help support this show while also helping yourself. Thanks for checking it out at Alzheimer’sCaregiverRadio.com/hgh.