‘Tis the season for increased family demands…and if you’re also caring for an elderly loved one, make sure an put yourself at the top of the list so that your own daily stress is under control. As a nurse, I have witnessed countless caregivers sacrifice their own health and well-being for an elderly loved one, often to the point where their own physical and emotional health suffered.
I remember as a young nurse listening to the doctor scold a caregiver for not taking care of himself during the onslaught of cold and flu season:
“Why didn’t you have that cough checked out sooner?”
The fact was, the caregiver was so busy taking care of his elderly and frail mother that he simply didn’t have time to make his own doctor’s appointment! Now he had ended up in the hospital himself, with nobody at home to take care of Mom!
Research indicates a caregiver’s risk for chronic illness is nearly twice that of a non-caregiver. For that reason, “You must take care of yourself first” has become my mantra over the years.
Being a good provider means not only staying physically well, but also that you’re strong mentally and emotionally.
How to stay on an even keel
Taking care of yourself begins with a clear assessment of the situation. Ask yourself:
Have his or her care needs changed? Has independence decreased?
Are different skills, equipment or expertise required to provide the care?
Has your own health and feeling of well being changed?
Are your medical issues being ignored? Have you postponed doctor, dental or eye appointments?
Do you suffer more fatigue?
Do you feel overwhelmed?
Do you have trouble getting to sleep or getting enough sleep?
Has your weight changed?
Have you lost interest in things that used to be fun?
If you answer “yes” to any of the questions, it’s time to formulate a new plan:
You can’t do it all anymore! Ask friends and family for respite, or to help paying for professional help. By involving others in care, not only does the caregiver get a respite but the care receiver benefits also!
Create a list of things you would gladly have someone else do.
Did you know that several grocery stores in the Quad Cities deliver? Unless grocery shopping is your idea of fun, delivery is a way to save at least an hour or more every week and a lot of energy. People who say, “Let me know if I can do anything” can be given jobs. Ask, “Could you drop by on Friday to watch the baseball game on TV with Bill while I go to the dentist?” Or, “Could you pick up this list of groceries?”
Regular medical checkups.
They are just as important for you as your loved one. When there is a medical issue, don’t ignore it or delay treatment for a more “convenient” time. You can bet it will come to a head at the most inconvenient time possible!
Plan for the worst and hope for the best!
In other words, if you get your affairs in order with clearly written instructions to those you trust to provide back-up caregiving, in case your own life demands urgent attention.
Include phone numbers of family, friends, health care providers, and other professionals. Those professionals should include everyone your loved one needs help from, including respite workers, Fido’s veterinarian and even the hair stylist.
Putting the plan down in writing will make it easier for a back-up caregiver to tap into the resources your loved one depends upon. She or he can rest assured that they will be well cared for should you be incapacitated. And you’ll sleep better knowing you have a plan in place if needed.
GolderCare Solutions is an independent Quad-Cities team of elder care specialists whose only focus is the well-being of your loved one. We provide critical expertise in medical insurance, asset protection, government benefits and other aspects of senior life. Quad-City families have relied on GolderCare since 2008 to help ensure their aging loved ones live life the way they want, while protecting their finances and yours. Contact us today for a free introductory meeting on your unique situation … and take a step toward a sustainable long-term plan that relieves your stress and preserves her quality of life.