We may not all be as talented as the balance artist, but we can use our own inner resources and the help from others to attain steadiness in our lives. Providing care to someone in need may be one of the most important roles one will ever fill in a lifetime, yet it does not have to be done alone.
By Stacey Rhodes, Adult Day Program
Dementia Care Specialist
Caregivers are often suddenly thrust into the role of caregiver. Most caregivers have to wear many different hats when supporting their loved ones. You may be a driver, personal assistant, chef, financial advisor, handyman, etc. Providing care and support can be difficult in handling the ups and downs of caregiving all by yourself.
Caregivers are also managing their own lives by focusing on their careers, raising children, and taking care of their health. Caregivers tend to focus on the needs of others and neglect to take care of themselves. Research shows that caregivers feel stress, irritability, anxiety, depression, and fatigue. Caregivers take on responsibility upon responsibility, task upon task, problem upon problem because they think this is how it has to be. So, when it comes to caregiving, you don’t have to do it alone.
No matter what your caregiving situation is, building a caregiving team or support system will enhance your loved one’s quality of life while also giving you opportunities to relax, recharge, and feel refreshed, which makes you a more effective caregiver.
Gather your siblings and other key relatives to develop a plan of care and an action plan. Use ZOOM or a phone conference to discuss the needs of your loved one. Let everyone share their thoughts and suggestions. Involve your loved one if possible. Be realistic of what is needed and how each person can contribute.
Always be prepared with a list of tasks someone can do for you to ease the many responsibilities. When friends, church members, relatives, or neighbors ask you, “Is there anything I can do to help?”, be prepared with a list of ideas that they can choose. People want to help. They need to hear specific suggestions as to what they can do. Some suggestions might be help with an errand, bring a meal, walk the dog, grocery shop, and visit regularly. Sometimes it is the little things that can alleviate some of the stress.
Look for guidance from professionals. Your loved one’s physician can guide and assist you in health education and offering resources. An attorney can provide legal advice and prepare documents. Seek out professional organizations specializing in older adults services like St. John’s Community Care, AgeSmart Community Resources, or your local senior center.
Identify services in your community that may offer the assistance you need. In-home care, adult day services, and home-delivered meals are just a few services that can be part of your care team.
Take care of yourself. You are an essential person in your Care Team. You are most likely doing most of the caregiving responsibilities and coordinating care for your loved one. Caregiver support groups and educational classes can provide support and resources. Knowing you are not alone is empowering.
Remember, reaching out for help isn’t selfish. It takes strength to know when you’re reaching your limits. There should never be any stigma or shame involved in asking for help. You deserve it!