Do you see family/friend caregiving as a possibility in the near future? Are you just starting the caregiving journey? Have you been a caregiver for some time? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be wondering what resources are available to help you with your caregiving duties. Family/friend caregiving is a world unto itself. Those new to the caregiving world often don’t know where to start with locating resources. Those who are in the midst of 24/7 or near 24/7 caregiving rarely have the time it takes to do the necessary research to locate available resources.
You are a caregiver, and you know that you are a caregiver. However, does anyone else know it? What would happen if you were hospitalized for a serious situation and could not communicate? Who would be there to look after your care receiver? Who would know? While this may be a hypothetical situation, it can easily become reality. Your loved one could be left stranded without any caregiving support if something were to happen to you. This unfortunate situation can be avoided with a simple, quick solution. Create a caregiver alert notice to place on your refrigerator and a small version to place in your wallet. State that you are a caregiver and include the name, address and phone number of your care receiver. Another simple solution is to purchase a medical alert bracelet engraved with the same information for you to wear whenever you leave your home. Such bracelets are available online; conduct a search by typing “medical ID bracelets for caregivers” in the search engine.
It is not unusual for caregivers to feel that no one understands what they, as caregivers, face physically, emotionally, mentally, socially and spiritually every day. If you, as a new or even a veteran caregiver, feel that you are all alone on your journey, then you may want to visit the web site for the Caregiver Action Network (CAN) at www.caregiveraction.org. This web site features a variety of information, resources and useful tips to help family caregivers who work with older loved ones and young and adult children with disabilities. You can read the personal stories of caregivers facing a variety of challenges and what they have learned from their experience. You can view videos that pertain to caregiving for specific diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. You can join the family caregiver forum and share with other caregivers. You can sign up to receiver CAN's free monthly newsletter of practical tips and advice. You will discover that there are many others in similar situations like yours who understand you and that you are not alone on the caregiving journey.
One of the greatest concerns for older/ill people and their caregivers is the issue of falling down. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every four adults 65 and over falls each year and more than 300,000 seniors are treated for hip fractures. Half of all falls occur in the home. The most common type of fall is falling sideways. One way to help prevent falls is to make sure the home environment is safe. This can be done by installing grab bars inside and outside the shower and/or tub and by the toilet and by adding guard rails on both sides of stairs. It is also important to get rid of things that can cause tripping and to make sure there is plenty of light in the home by adding more and/or brighter lights. For more information, check out the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html.
The caregiving journey is often one of ups and downs. It is not abnormal for caregivers to experience frustration with their caregiving situation and/or their care receivers. When frustration builds and hangs on for longer periods of time, the caregiver is probably experiencing caregiver fatigue or burnout and could benefit from a break. It is not always possible for caregivers to break away from their duties especially in 24/7 care situations. However, it is possible to “get away” from caregiving in small ways. One of these is to take a few moments to breathe deeply to increase the intake and flow of oxygen. Breathing in while counting to 4, holding for 8 counts and then breathing out for 4 counts repeated several times will be very beneficial. Another way caregivers can take a virtual break is to spend a few moments with their eyes closed visualizing a favorite place they have visited or would like to visit. Sound machines that generate the sound of falling rain or crashing ocean waves can be very calming and relaxing. Finally, sitting down with a cup of favorite beverage while listening to favorite music can seem like a vacation. The important point for caregivers to remember is that even a little self-care can make the caregiving journey more manageable.
When we talk about the importance of taking care of yourself so you can take care of your loved one, fall prevention comes to mind. As a caregiver, you need to safeguard yourself, as well as your loved one, against falling.
Did you know falls are the leading cause of injury related deaths for Americans sixty-five years and older?
Falls are preventable and there are many things you can do to reduce the risk. The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) has information on healthy aging with an entire section devoted to fall prevention. Visit www.azdhs.gov to your Google search bar. Click on Falls & Injuries on the left sidebar. Select Falls Prevention Information & Resources from the drop down. Prevent Falls at Home contains tips on how to avoid falls. Included is a list of low-cost items, such as wheelchair seat belts and slip resistant socks, that can drastically reduce the chance of a fall.
As caregivers, we become the eyes, ears and voices for our care receivers. We make sure that their concerns are voiced and that they correctly see and hear all that concerns them. We also lend our eyes and ears to medical professionals who provide care for our loved ones. Because we know more about our loved ones than the medical professionals do, it is important for us to continuously observe our loved ones and communicate changes in their physical, mental, behavioral and emotional health. While we may be tempted to dismiss a change as too slight or subtle to be of immediate importance, observing and sharing even subtle changes can make a huge difference in the care our loved ones receive. This can be done effectively by maintaining a log that gives date, time and type of changes observed. It is also helpful to write down any questions that we may have in connection to the changes we’ve observed. And, finally, we need to listen to the inner voice within us that may be urging us to seek immediate answers to the questions we have. Getting our questions answered as soon as possible could result in keeping our loved ones more independent and living longer.
With an estimated 40 million family caregivers in the U.S., employers are recognizing the value of those who are also members of the workforce. If you are working while caring for a loved one, AARP has resources including a video with tips for talking with your employer. (Copy the URL address into your computer search bar: https://learn.aarp.org/the-working-caregiver .
Be upfront with your employer regarding your caregiving responsibilities. If your company is small, talk with your boss, otherwise, your human resources manager who can tell you about policies and services such as caregivers’ support groups and respite care.
Make suggestions that accommodate your caregiving responsibilities yet are cost-effective for the company. Be creative. Explore options such as flextime, telecommuting, working from home one day a week, and utilizing allocated time off. And some employers are now offering paid leave for caregivers. You can also inquire whether you qualify for the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Many caregivers are caring for loved ones who are dealing with memory loss. According to the Alzheimer’s Association web site, Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia accounting for 60% to 80% of the dementia cases. Alzheimer’s progresses rapidly as compared with general dementia that develops slowly. People diagnosed with Alzheimer’s will live an average of eight years after their diagnosis, although some live as long as 20 years. Because the disease robs people of their ability to think and take care of themselves, they will need a lot of assistance which creates a challenging journey for family caregivers. One of the best resources for family caregivers is the Alzheimer’s Association web site which can be found at www.alz.org. This website is packed full of information to help people understand the disease, how it progresses, and risk factors for getting the disease. In addition, the web site features links to the Alzheimer’s navigator of connections to local support services, a virtual library, and information on locating a local chapter of the Association. A helpline is available 24/7 to provide assistance and answer questions. Call 1-800-272-3900 to reach the helpline.