Please enjoy this series showing the challenges facing caregivers at different stages in the caregiving process. The full credits for this article are at the bottom, thanks.
The Entrenched Caregiver
I am helping an aging relative.
Who are you?
You’ve been involved in your care recipient’s care for a few years. Your involvement is almost daily–if not constant. Your care recipient may live with you–or your involvement means that your day is structured to be available to your care recipient. You begin to wonder, how much longer can you live this way? Your mood is sometimes upbeat–you’re proud you’ve been able to provide such wonderful care and make decisions that support your care recipient’s best wishes–and sometimes melancholy–why you? You’ve been mourning the loss of your care recipient’s abilities and functions and often long for the days before caregiving. And, you’re tired.
Your Keyword: Receive
–Receive help–from anyone who offers;
–Receive breaks from caregiving;
To develop a routine, create a familiar schedule for both yourself and your care recipient. A routine will help you deal with the overwhelming stresses and responsibilities that wear you out. A routine will provide comfort for you and your care recipient–this stage may be the most difficult for both of you. The changes you prepared for in Stage 1 and 2 are now a reality–you have become something of a lifeline to a family member or friend.
As an “entrenched caregiver”, what can you do?
1. Determine your limits.
How long can your care recipient remain at home? What’s your comfort level in providing care in your home? For instance, some caregivers feel uncomfortable providing care when their care recipients become incontinent. Others determine they can provide care at home as long as Medicare or insurance benefits offset some of the home care expenses. Others feel that they can provide care as long as their other family members, like spouses and adult children, will put up with it.
But, everyone has limits. What are yours?
2. Continue regular breaks.
Consider annual weekly breaks–investigate short-term respite stays in your community’s nursing homes. Or, ask relatives to take over the caregiving role for a week or two every year or every two years. Continue to take daily, weekly and monthly breaks. Keep up with your own interests and hobbies as best you can.
A Quick Tip:
In order to survive a trying and emotionally-charged experience, we need to find the meaning. Your experience has a family caregiver is meaningful. You can find the meaning when:
–You receive help for yourself and your care recipient from community organizations, your house of worship, your family members, your care recipient’s friends and neighbors. Regular breaks mean you can gain a healthier perspective.
–You allow yourself, and your care recipient, to feel the emotions of the experience. Is your care recipient angry that she has had to leave her own home? Allow her to tell you about it. Do you miss your old life–its action, its freedom, its spontaneity? Allow yourself to vent your frustration in a healthy way, in your journal, to your support group, in your artwork.
When you receive and allow, you make room for meaningful moments between you and your care recipient. And, that’s when you find the meaning of your caregiving journey.
3. Keep up with a support system–a caregiver’s support group or empathetic and understanding family members or friends.
And, if you find yourself struggling to stay sane, consider finding help through a counselor or therapist. In addition, check with your doctor about a screening for depression; if you are depressed, ask about treatment and medication options.
4. Continue to learn about your care recipient’s illness or condition.
What’s next for your care recipient? Are you up to the next stages in his or her illness?
5. Start a second journal that you use to detail your care recipient’s needs and your caregiving responsibilities.
Bring the journal to all physician appointments; reference the journal in all meetings with health care professionals.
Note any changes in your care recipient’s health and condition so that you can confidently discuss your concerns during physician appointments. Continue to chronicle your caregiving journey in your first journal. What causes you to mourn?
Excerpted from www.caregiving.com: The Caregiving Years, Six Stages to a Meaningful Journey, a handbook for family caregivers by Denise M. Brown.