Today, with our fast growing aging population, more and more families are faced with the challenges of taking care of an older loved one. Over time, our elders can require increasing help with basic tasks such as bathing, medications, cooking, cleaning, transportation and other needs. Without the help of others, they can be at high risk of falls and serious injury, illness, poor nutrition and isolation, which is a primary cause of depression in older people.
The Growing Challenge of Caring for Older Loved Ones
Being the primary caregiver for a parent or other relative who requires help with activities of daily life can be an extremely challenging and highly stressful role. With two-earner families, demanding careers, growing children and other family responsibilities, it has become increasingly difficult for primary caregivers and their families to devote even more of their limited time to the needs of their elders.
Psychologists and experts in the field of eldercare advise us that the commitment of daily caregiving responsibilities can have a substantial physical and emotional effect on the entire family. In fact, the impact on primary caregivers can become so overwhelming that they themselves can succumb to emotional burnout, depression and serious health problems of their own such as hypertension.
For all of these reasons, taking a team approach is essential for caregivers to preserve their own well-being.
Creating a Caregiver Support Team is Important – For You and Your Loved One!
If you don’t get support in caring for a loved one, it can take a major toll on your physical health and emotional well-being. This is especially true for caregivers who are already trying to balance their own family responsibilities and careers.
Sharing the responsibilities is also in the best interest of your loved one’s quality of care. Experts say it is important for caregivers to be realistic and practical, i.e. to recognize that no human being can do it all, nor should they be expected to. Getting appropriate help is extremely important – for both of you!
They suggest that a good way to start organizing a caregiver support team is to create a list of all the things that your loved one needs assistance with. Be sure that your list is comprised of useful tasks that truly ease your burden. Examples might include taking mom or dad to their doctors’ appointments, shopping for their groceries, cleaning, preparing meals and making sure that all of their prescriptions are available and being taken.
If you’re organizing a team of family and friends to help you, it is extremely important that you make your requests or “assignments” as specific and clear as possible. Experts tell us that vague statements of need rarely materialize into actual help. Therefore, when someone asks you if they can help, say yes, and be specific in what they can do for you!
Instead of saying “You can help me by handling mom’s prescriptions,” you should say, “Call this number on the third Thursday of every month to renew her three prescriptions and then drop them off to her. Also, make sure she has taken all of them when it is time to renew them again.”
Helpful Resources You Can Use
The next step is to begin to organize a caregiving team by using the list of needs you’ve developed and matching those tasks with people and other resources.
Experts recommend the following supportive resources to consider:
- Other Family Members – Turning to your family, especially any siblings, is your first option if you’re looking after a parent. Though you may be the lead caregiver, it’s critical to let others know that they need to be involved as well. Other relatives, such as your spouse, children, aunts, uncles and cousins, should also be considered if they are available.
- Your Close Friends and Neighbors – Friends and neighbors can be another valuable source of help if you have close relationships with them. Always be clear and specific about what you would like them to do, and about how long you’ll need their help. Remember, people are more likely to assist you if the task and time commitment are clearly defined for them.
- Hired Assistance – If family and friends are an insufficient option, and you have the financial resources, you might consider hiring people to be a part of your caregiving team. This could include, for example, house cleaning, lawn care, household repairs or transportation services. This can be a good option if you are trying to coordinate your loved one’s care from a long distance.
- Community Support Organizations – Many communities have service groups set up specifically to help caregivers. The Area Agencies on Aging is a good resource to start with. Local churches, senior centers and government agencies can also provide useful information. By taking some time to look, you may discover an entire network of services available to help.
- Respite Services – Since caregivers typically need periodic breaks from the challenges of caregiving, you should identify someone who can provide respite support, (e.g. a weekend break provided by a brother, sister or aunt). The purpose is to give you time away from your duties to “recharge your batteries.” Don’t let being a “caregiver” define your life.
- Professional Care – There often comes a time when it is not be possible for you to provide the appropriate level of care and safety in the home environment. Leading assisted living communities such as Provident Village at Creekside provide loved ones in need of daily assistance with the latest in comfort, hospitality, wellness, life enrichment programs, services and amenities. Our beautiful community eliminates the stresses and worries of being a caregiver and enables your loved one to enjoy a vibrant, fulfilling and secure lifestyle.
Other Helpful Resources
ALFA, the Assisted Living Federation of America is also an excellent resource for older American who need help with the activities of daily living. Their Consumer Resources website offers a wide variety of useful information for both senior adults with daily living needs and their adult children.
Those who know best remind us that asking for support with family caregiving responsibilities is not a sign of weakness or laziness. It is the smart, pragmatic thing to do — for everyone involved. Over time, you will find that you are better able to maintain your own well-being while also providing better care for your loved one.
Live Vibrantly! at Provident Village at Creekside
At Provident Village at Creekside, we believe vibrant days ensure bright tomorrows, so we’ve created a community where seniors, quite simply, Live Vibrantly! Whether it’s in our Assisted Living Community or Memory Care Neighborhood, each day we celebrate the individuality and strengths of each resident.
At Provident Village, to Live Vibrantly! means that days are filled with joy, vitality, growth and security. It means residents are socially active and personally empowered, with access to the personalized care and support they need to live fully. It means residing in a community where intellectual, social, emotional, spiritual and physical care are seamlessly integrated into everyday life.
Our compassionate Care Partners dedicate each day to enriching the lives of our residents. They customize the level of attention and activities to each resident’s specific needs and abilities. Our living environments are warm and inviting, with comfortable furnishings, beautiful fixtures and natural elements that bring the outdoors inside.