If you’re thinking of becoming a professional caregiver, or if you’ve been thrust into that role to aid an elderly loved one, there are some things you should be aware of about the caregiver role. In Oxford and elsewhere around the country, caregiving can be a very demanding activity, and it can sneak up on you to drain much of your energy and emotions, so there are some cautionary things to keep in mind. Senior home care can be especially demanding, depending on how mobile and how mentally alert your elderly charge is. This discussion will consider some of the most important points to remember about senior caregiving.
Getting organized as a caregiver
In the first days and weeks of being a caregiver, it’s very easy to be overwhelmed by the immensity of the task, so it’s a good idea to get organized as soon as possible. First of all, you’ll need to know exactly what you’re dealing with, so you should get an accurate diagnosis from the family doctor about your elderly loved one’s condition.
Knowing this, you should then learn about the type of skills you’ll need to cope with whatever medical conditions your patient might have. If appropriate, have legal paperwork filled out regarding power of attorney, in anticipation of a time when your charge might become largely disabled. It will be a good idea for you to discuss your loved one’s situation with the rest of the family, as well as any close friends you might have, so you can lean on them for support.
Do some research to find out what kind of services are available in your community, which can contribute to the well-being and quality of life of your loved one. Lastly, remember that you are not alone in this caregiving task and that there are others whom you can call upon for support.
Taking care of yourself
One aspect of caregiving which you should never overlook is that you need to take care of yourself as well as your patient. You won’t be any good to your senior loved one if you become run-down or burned out, and are unable to provide the kind of care that he/she needs. This being the case, keep in mind that you won’t be perfect in the execution of your caregiving duties and that you’re certainly entitled to your own feelings about them.
Be aware that depression is a very common by-product of prolonged caregiving, and take whatever steps you can to avoid slipping into this. You’ll be better prepared for caregiving if you learn about whatever afflictions your loved one may have, so you can deliver better care. On the other hand, you should also not feel guilty about saying ‘no’ to some requests, when you simply lack the capability of carrying them out.
Don’t be averse to accepting help from others who offer it, and when you really need an extra pair of hands, don’t be afraid to actually solicit help. In order for you to be as successful as possible about coping with the caregiver role and all its demands, you should keep three essential elements in mind. Make sure to eat right and provide your body with the nutrition it needs so that you don’t become overstressed.
One of the best countermeasures for stress is exercise, and even if you feel you don’t have time for it, it should be shoe-horned into your schedule somehow. The last thing to remember about taking care of yourself is that you will need a good night’s sleep every night, so you don’t reach the point where you become burned out and ineffective as a caregiver. It’s just as important to take care of yourself as your loved one, so don’t overlook self-care.
Information, respite, and support
These three aspects of caregiving have been referred to as the ‘IRS of Caregiving’, and they are information, respite, and support. The Information aspect involves learning everything you can about your elderly loved one’s condition and preparing yourself to manage it. This will probably involve some research about certain diseases or medical conditions, and it may also involve consulting with your family doctor about what to expect and how to cope with it.
The Respite part of the IRS formula calls for you to take a break from caregiving whenever you get the opportunity. This can easily become a round-the-clock job, and if you don’t give yourself some respite from it, you will quickly become burned out and unable to provide the necessary care. Sometimes you might need to just get away from it all for a day or two, and involve yourself with totally different activities like catching up with friends, taking long walks, or possibly reading a good book.
You may be reluctant to disengage from caregiving at first, but you have to keep in mind that it won’t do anyone any good if you’re locked into constant caregiving without a break. Some caregivers are afraid that if they do take a break, something bad will happen to their loved one and they’ll feel guilty forever. But you have to keep in mind that it is totally necessary for you to take care of yourself at the same time that you’re providing care, so any break you take is well-deserved and essential for your continued effectiveness.
The third component of the IRS caregiving formula is Support, and this refers to the fact that caregiving is something you cannot and should not be committed to all by yourself. Support can come in the form of family and friends who can give you a break from your own involvement, or it can come from community services that are available to help with caregiving. Sometimes, all you need is another person to talk to, in order to get things off your chest and to relieve personal stress.
Whatever form in which support might become available to you, don’t hesitate to avail yourself of it, because in the long run, it will be better for both you and your elderly loved one.