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Is caring for an aging loved one taking its toll? Get the help you need.
November is National Family Caregivers Month and it’s the perfect time for caregivers to take stock of their own well-being. If you’re a caregiver, you already understand the tremendous challenges and meaningful moments associated with the role.
There are many joys in caregiving – it’s a powerful way to demonstrate how important someone is to you. It gives you a chance to learn more about the person you love. You can create lasting memories spending time together, even if you’re doing something simple like grocery shopping.
Still, no matter how much you love the person you care for, they will test your patience. You could be increasingly annoyed by having to answer the same question 50 times a day, seven days a week for someone with dementia. Perhaps you’re frustrated by your mom’s continued insistence that she can handle the bills herself (and ongoing failure to actually pay them). Maybe you feel overwhelmed every time you visit and see all of the household chores that your loved one is not taking care of.
An unpredictable assignment
When your patience wears thin, it is absolutely crucial to remember that taking care of a loved one is not a static task with steady requirements. Instead, it’s an unpredictable commitment that changes along with the lives of the people involved. Some elements that can alter a caregiving situation include:
- Ongoing physical or mental decline due to aging or illness
- New medical diagnoses
- Shifting demands on the caregiver, whether at home or work
- Logistical changes like where involved parties live or the hours they work
- Changing family dynamics, like a new baby being born
- Fluctuating involvement and support from other family and friends
All of these factors play a role in determining what an older person needs help with and how much of it you, as the caregiver, can handle. For example, maybe your father used to cook for himself but a recent injury has limited his mobility. His needs have expanded, but that doesn’t mean that your capacity to help has also grown.
On the flip side, it could be a change in your life that alters the situation. If you take a new job with a longer commute, you might find yourself increasingly exhausted by your efforts to maintain the same time investment in caregiving and make the daily trek to and from the office.
Being attuned to shifts like these, accepting your own limitations and acknowledging your right, as a caregiver, to live a healthy and balanced life is the best way to identify when you need more help. If you do find that you need additional assistance, in-home care can be an invaluable part of your care plan.
In-home care can take many forms depending on your situation. It could be a temporary arrangement to address needs while your loved one recovers from a specific injury or illness, or it could be an ongoing plan where a caregiver regularly fills gaps in care capabilities. A few of the services in-home caregivers can provide include:
- Assistance with bathing, showering, and dressing
- Incontinence care
- Dusting, vacuuming, and other light housekeeping help
- Help cooking, taking out the trash, and doing dishes
- Scheduling and providing transportation to medical appointments
- Assistance with light exercise, climbing the stairs, getting into and out of bed
Supplemental support can even be helpful if your loved one lives with you. If the person you’re caring for doesn’t sleep through the night and has issues like bad dreams, disorientation, frequent falls or an inability to safely get to the bathroom, you can quickly become exhausted trying to provide care around the clock.
Bringing in another set of hands to deal with nighttime challenges can allow you to sleep soundly through the night. Getting a full night’s sleep isn’t only critical for your wellbeing – it also allows you to maintain patience and affability in your interactions with the person you’re caring for. When you don’t get enough sleep, it’s easy to become cantankerous and irritable, which diminishes the quality of care you’re able to provide.
Caring for an ill or aging friend or relative is an incredible declaration of love and though it’s difficult, caregivers have to accept that bringing in help doesn’t diminish that commitment. Rather, doing so acknowledges and addresses the realities of logistical difficulties, competing responsibilities and human limitations to secure the best care for the person you love.
If you have questions about in-home care options or want to learn more about the services available to you, visit www.HomeCareAssistance.com/Birmingham or call 205-438-6925.