About six years ago, like many baby boomers, I found myself in an unfamiliar role–that of caregiver. My mother had moved to southern California from Colorado, and I became the sibling living nearest her facility. I had watched my husband help his mother through her final years back in 2001, and now it was my turn.
It was both a joy and a privilege to be with my mom those last months. I especially treasure the memories of taking my grandchildren over to her assisted living facility so that they could enjoy her, and she could get to know them. And although I wouldn’t give up the moments we spent together for anything, I will admit that caregiving was a time and energy commitment I wasn’t fully prepared for.
That’s why I’m so happy to share these resources for National Family Caregivers Month. If you are caring for a loved one, or sharing in these duties, or know someone who is, please read on. And thank you for the vital, often tough, job you’re doing.
10 Tips for Family Care Givers from the Caregiver Action Network.
1) Seek support from other caregivers, you’re not alone. It may seem like you’re the only one doing this, but an estimated 53 million Americans provide unpaid care for relatives and friends. Look for resources by checking with your loved one’s healthcare provider, your local senior citizen center or county Office of Aging, or just Google caregiver resources, with your state or county name.
2) Take care of your own health so you are strong enough to take care of a loved one. You’re no good to anyone if you’re sick.
3) Accept offers of help and suggest specific things people can do to help you. You can’t do it all, so let others know exactly the type of assistance you need: shopping, transportation, house cleaning, technology, etc.
4) Learn how to effectively communicate with doctors. You are the advocate for your loved one. Write down questions so you don’t forget to ask during appointments, and also record answers.
5) Caregiving is hard work, so take respite breaks often. Naps can be your friend!
6) Watch out for signs of depression and don’t delay getting professional help when you need it. Your family and friends may be a better judge of this, so ask them to let you know if they become concerned about your mental health.
7) Be open to new technologies that can help you take care of a loved one. Home security and medical alert systems have come a long way. Again, lean on your resources for help here.
8) Organize medical information so that it’s up to date and easy to find. Keep a folder with pertinent paperwork and records (either on your computer or in a file cabinet); you don’t want to spend hours searching for something that happened a year or two ago. Minimize frustration!
9) Make sure legal documents are in order. This goes without saying–a will and/or trust, durable power of attorney, health care power of attorney, advanced directives, living will, and DNR (do not resuscitate).
10) Give yourself credit for doing the best you can in one of the toughest jobs there is. I can’t agree more! Plus, you’re role modeling for your own kids and grandchildren so they know how to help when you need the care.
And for ideas to help keep the older adult in your life strong and independent, contact me.