Caregivers, try to utilize your resources!

I’ve detailed the struggles of caregiving, but haven’t emphasized the resources available to caregivers and patients.  We’re aware of the emotional and financial struggles of caregiving, but what resources can help a caregiver create balance in their seemingly unpredictable, erratic environment?

1.)  Government Programs

Caregiving can be financially draining for both the caregiver and patient.  In-home care costs are expensive!  Seek financial assistance through government programs such as Medicaid.  Some states offer wavier programs to assist with caregiving costs.  Counties have departments dedicated to the aging or disabled.  Many seniors are eligible for a “tax freeze” on their property taxes.  Can you get paid for your caregiving services?  Take advantage of ANY and ALL government funded programs.  You and your loved-one are entitled to those benefits.  Not sure what you qualify for?  Visit BenefitsCheckUp and determine your eligibility for offered benefits. 

2.)  Veteran’s Benefits

Technically this is considered a government program, but it deserves our sole attention.  Is the individual receiving care a veteran?  Is the person receiving care the spouse of a veteran?  He/she could be receiving aid for homecare from the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Veterans or their spouses could be entitled to annual property tax deductions.  Local governments may offer adult daycare for our American heroes.  They served our country, let our country help them!

3.)  Homecare Services

Finding and hiring a reputable homecare agency is challenging and expensive.  The amount of paperwork can deter even the most organized person.  When searching for trustworthy, dependable in-home care, search for independent caregivers.  Many retired registered nurses offer paid caregiving services.  Care.com allows you to locate local caregivers and read summaries of their qualifications, availabilities, and services.  

4.)  Meal Preparation

Caring for a loved-one involves A LOT of meal preparation.  Planning daily meals is time consuming, especially if the patient has specific dietary needs.  Research available meal programs by contacting your local municipality.  Meals on Wheels America is one organization that delivers meals to housebound seniors.

5.)  Technology

Integrating technology into homecare is beneficial for both the caregiver and patient.  If your loved-one doesn’t require 24-hour care and can live somewhat independently, an in-home monitoring system may be appropriate for your caregiving situation.  Observe their routine via cell phone, tablet, or computer while you’re home, working or running errands.

6.)  Support

Instating a dependable support system is vital when caregiving.  It decreases stress and helps eliminate caregiver burnout.  Delegate daily tasks to willing family members and friends.  If help is offered, TAKE ITFeeling stressed and need to vent?  Join an online caregiver support group.  Chat with and express your concerns to other caregivers.  Knowing you’re not alone during your journey is calming.  Support groups also provide a platform for asking questions and receiving insightful responses for caregiving questions. 

Sometimes you choose to be a caregiver and sometimes caregiving chooses you.  Whatever your unique circumstance, know you’re not alone.  Provide you and your loved-one with the help you deserve by utilizing offered resources.  Please share!  Thank you and take care!   

An Inspirational Quote for the Caregiver….Week 1

It’s mid-week and everyone needs an emotional boost….especially caregivers.  An inspirational quote can provide the encouragement needed to complete a stressful week.  When feeling doubtful, know your devotion is appreciated.

Caregiving often calls us to lean into love we didn’t know possible.” — Tia Walker, author


Please share!  It may give motivational incentive to an unhopeful caregiver.  Thank you!    

Why do I feel guilty….caregiver guilt?

You became a caregiver in order to give your loved-one unconditional love, support, and quality care within the comforts of home.  Your daily devotion enables them to live a more meaningful, joyful life.  You absorb ALL of the stress from the current complex situation.  The mental and physical exhaustion is depleting your own health, but you still smile.  Socializing is limited, but isolation is in surplus.  Why do caregivers expose themselves to such a stressful, unpredictable environment?  Because we care about the welfare of others and believe our participation in their lives will create nurturing relationships.  We give hope to an otherwise hopeless situation.  Providing an ailing loved-one with a fulfilled life is a rewarding accomplishment.  Besides, it’s the right thing to do.  But, do we care too muchIs there such a thing as caring too much?

We caregivers have a very nurturing, caring, independent mentality.  This mind-set can wreak havoc on our health and create an unsatisfactory care environment.  Caregiving is mentally and physically draining and most of us have suffered from caregiver stress and burnout.  It’s an emotional roller-coaster!  What emotions surface while caregiving?  Anger, sorrow, happiness, love, fear, and surprise are just a few emotions that immediately come to mind when reminiscing of my caregiving journey.  However, the emotion I found to be the most mentally exhausting was guilt.  You’re devoting your life to the happiness and well-being of a loved-one.  Why do you feel guilty?

After her second stroke, my grandmother received all nutrition and hydration through a feeding tube.  She couldn’t eat or drink anything by mouth, only via peg-tube.  How could I possibly eat anything in front of this wonderful lady?  I felt guilty eating because she wasn’t able to indulge in the foods she once found so delicious.  I ate many meals at the kitchen counter, in a location that wasn’t visible to her baby blue eyes.

My grandmother was left bed-bound after suffering two strokes between the ages of 73-78.  She was unable to eat, stand, or complete any daily tasks.  She was completely dependent on me….for EVERYTHING.  This once independent woman was now dependent on an 18 year old!  The irony, in previous years I was her dependent!  Again, guilt surfaces and shows its ugly face.  My mind is overwhelmed with WHY, WHY, WHY?

  • Why did this healthy woman have multiple strokes? 
  • Why is this master of culinary arts unable to eat the food she loves?
  • Why did this kind, sweet, and giving lady get such a “raw deal” in life?

I felt guilty because I was healthy.

Heart failure ended my grandmother’s life.  As a caregiver for an elderly loved-one, you know your responsibilities will end, but not exactly when or how.  It’s frightening trying to be prepared for the unexpected.  When she passed I was overwhelmed with guilt and again, my mind was flooded with questions. 

  • What did I do wrong?  She was fine last night when I put her into bed.
  • Could I have prevented this?
  • Maybe I should have done this instead of that?
  • Did I overlook some detail that caused this?
  • Did my grandmom die because of something I did or missed?

Caregiver guilt is prevalent during and after caregiving.  Because of our faithful devotion to helping others, we caregivers create an unhealthy emotional environment for ourselves.  We can’t accept certain terms and outcomes.  Our mind is geared for success not failure. 

I felt it necessary to write this post and bring awareness to such a strong emotion.   Have you felt caregiver guilt?  Let me know by leaving a comment.  Please share this post to prepare other caregivers for their emotional but rewarding journey.  Thank you and good luck! 

Recovering from Burnout while still Caregiving

You’ve noticed a change in your mood and temper.  Your bright spirit is dim.  Avoiding social interaction has become part of your daily routine.  Happiness no longer compliments your face.  You feel lonely and secluded, almost depressed.  Caregiving duties are still being completed but not with the same vigor and enthusiasm.  Your fast-thinking logic has been replaced with slow what-if’sSound familiar?  Most caregivers can identify and empathize with these feelings.  These mixed emotions are warning signs of caregiver stress.  Ignoring these symptoms will result in caregiver burnout.  Trust me, I know.  Yes, there are ways you can prevent caregiver stress, but how can a caregiver recover from burnout while still providing care?

You’re overwhelmed, stressed, and on the verge of throwing in the towel.  I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE!  But walking out the door is not an option; you must continue the daily care regimen.  The patient’s well-being is dependent on you.  Once you begin manifesting thoughts of defeat, you’ve entered the caregiver burnout phase.  Burnout will cause a decline in your mental and physical health.  This decline will result in subpar care for your loved-one.  It’s the “trickle-down” effect and it begins with you.

You’ve diagnosed yourself with caregiver burnout.  How can you reverse its effects and still provide quality care?  You can’t do it on your own.  If your suffering from burnout, you must voice your thoughts and opinions to family members, friends, or the attending physician.  Reaching out is not admitting defeat.  You’re recognizing the need for third party help in order to successfully care for your patient. 

Instate a dependable support group to help with caregiving duties.  Recovery involves alleviating some of the daily stress that contributed to your mental and physical burnout.  Discuss ways they can help YOU cope with caregiver stress.  Don’t be shy!  Designate daily caregiving duties to dependable family members and friends.  Don’t know where to start when assigning caregiving responsibilities?  Read, How to Help a Caregiver.

Reaching the burnout phase takes time….it doesn’t happen overnight.  It sneaks up on you.  It’s difficult to recognize the symptoms of caregiver stress because your engaged and focused on providing quality care for your loved-one.  Ideally, a caregiver would never suffer from stress or burnout.  However, it’s part of caregiving’s brutal reality.  Trying to combat mental and physical exhaustion while still maintaining a stable environment is extremely difficult without proper support.  Being overwhelmed results in the deterioration of quality care.  

The most effective strategy for recovering from caregiver burnout while still caregiving is ASK FOR HELP.  Without help the everyday stress of your monotonous daily routine will continue to wreak havoc on your own health, thus creating a less-than satisfactory caregiving environment.  Ultimately you want the best possible care for your loved-one.  Allow them good quality care by taking the initiative to engage others in your caregiver duties.  Reaching out will bring success to your burnout recovery and enable you to continue your caregiving journey.  Did you find this post helpful?  Let me know by leaving a comment.  Feel free to share this post with anyone who could benefit from the information.  Thank you for reading and stay well!  

          

Holiday Gifts for that Special Senior in Your Life

Finding a perfect holiday gift can be mind-boggling, especially when the gift is for an elder.  What do you buy your aging parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles?  While caregiving, I did A LOT of successful and unsuccessful holiday shopping for my grandmother.  These are my TOP 10 gift suggestions for your elderly loved-ones this holiday season.

  1. Framed Family Photo/Digital Photo Frame
  2. Favorite Record Album
  3. Heated Throw Blanket
  4. Monogrammed Pajamas
  5. His/Her Slippers
  6. Pillow Massager
  7. Digital Reader
  8. Robot Vacuum
  9. No-Install Grab Bar
  10. YOUR TIME

The elderly, like everyone, enjoy being noticed and appreciated.  The greatest gift of all is devoting a few spare minutes to that special senior in your life.  Let them know they’re not forgotten.  A visit and chat is cherished more than an expensive gift.  Take time to express your appreciation this holiday season.  What are your favorite holiday gifts for aging loved-ones?  Let me know by leaving a comment!  Thank you and happy shopping! 

How to Help a Caregiver

We caregivers are experts at keeping a “happy” face, even when times lack happiness and joy.  Our constant smile and understanding gives the impression that everything is always OK.  True feelings are pushed aside for the benefit of the patient.  We never ask for help because caregiving duties are solely our responsibility.  However, there are times when we need help, but don’t voice our feelings.

When asked if he/she needs help, a caregiver will often respond, “No thank you.  I have everything under control.  I appreciate the offer.”  So, how can you help a caregiver that refuses help?  Try indirect help.  Provide items or services that make their caregiving duties easier.

  1. Provide encouragement in the form of a card or casual conversation.  Let the caregiver know he/she is doing an excellent job and you appreciate their devotion.
  2. Caregiving is costly especially when you’re living on a limited income.  Give the caregiver a gift card that can be used for everyday expenses.
  3. Most caregivers have very limited time for errands.  Volunteer to grocery shop or pick up the patient’s medications.
  4. Balancing family and caregiving can be very stressful.  In this situation, offer free childcare services to the caregiver.

Trying to offer help can be tricky especially when you’re trying to directly help the caregiver in their environment.  Most have a set daily schedule.  Any deviation from this set schedule can cause unwanted stress.  So, how can you directly help a caregiver without interfering with their daily schedule?  

  1. Prepare meals for both the patient and the caregiver and deliver the meals a few times a week.  When preparing the meals be sure to abide by proper diet restrictions.
  2. Depending on the patient’s medical condition, home-care can involve a massive amount of laundry on a daily basis.  Volunteer to pick up and drop off laundry a few times a week.
  3. Offer to transport a patient to medical appointments.  These few hours allow the caregiver to take a break and catch up with daily tasks.
  4. Provide RESPITE CARE.  Allowing the caregiver a short-term break from their daily monotonous schedule is extremely beneficial.  The caregiver is able to enjoy activities outside of their duties, thus enabling them to de-stress and recharge.  A healthy caregiver can consistently provide top-notch care to the patient.

Caregivers can be stubborn.  This stubbornness will eventually lead to caregiver stress and burnout.  As a third-party to the situation, you can indirectly and directly help the caregiving process by providing your time and services.  Help the caregiver so they can successfully care for a loved-one.  Don’t take “NO” for an answer.  Work behind-the-scenes and give them the support they deserve.  Let me know how you help the caregivers in your life by leaving a comment!  Thank you and good luck!