Caregiving in a Rural Setting

Living in “Rural America” is gratifying.  The sounds of clattering suburbia are replaced by serene quietness.  Days and nights are peaceful, absent of commotion and traffic.  The view of the moon and stars isn’t obstructed by city smog.  People and nature are at peace with the environment.  I’ve lived in a rural setting my entire life and LOVE it!  Whippoorwills, white-tailed deer, locust, blueberry fields, and cranberry bogs are daily sights and sounds of my “Rural America”.  But, with peacefulness comes seclusion.  I currently live 30 minutes from the nearest grocery store, 40 minutes from my physician, 40 minutes from the nearest shopping mall, and 25 minutes from the “local” Chinese restaurant.  For some this is mindboggling, but for me it’s life.  I never realized the inconveniences of living rurally until my grandmother fell ill and needed healthcare support.  Those inconveniences were immediately magnified.  I’ve stressed the importance of utilizing resources available to caregivers and care-recipients.  However, most of those resources are not available to individuals receiving homecare in a rural setting. 

1.)  Transportation Services

Small towns in “Rural America” compared to urban and suburban communities lack funds to provide necessary transportation services to caregivers and care-recipients.  Residents living in exurban communities are limited in their independence and abilities to complete daily errands.

2.)  Adult Daycare Centers

Limited monetary resources and poor infrastructure both contribute to unavailable homecare resources.  We can’t compete with the wealth of populated cities.  Therefore, healthcare relief facilities are absent in rural communities.  And, without transportation services, caregivers and care-recipients can’t be transported to neighboring facilities. 

3.)  Home Healthcare Agencies  

Remote locations hinder the process of hiring dependable home healthcare agencies.  Nurses and aides are reluctant to travel to these locations because of travel time and distance.  

4.)  Respite Care

We realize the importance of respite care during caregiving, but a short-term break is not always readily available, especially in a rural setting.  The inability to find home healthcare agencies willing to travel to your location narrows your options when trying to obtain respite care.  Without agencies, your main source of relief care is dependable family and friends.  But, most families live at great distances from the caregiver and care-recipient.  Friends and neighbors work or are raising families.  Daily/weekly respite care may not be an option.     

If living in “Rural America” is inconvenient for the aging population, why don’t they relocate to an area better equipped for their needs?  The elderly in rural communities have limited incomes and live at or near poverty level.  Most live alone and have health concerns.  How can they relocate?  Why should they be disadvantaged by their living location? 

I was an informal caregiver for 11 years in a rural setting.  Getting good, quality care for your loved-one is nearly impossible.  Caregivers are required to perform many heath-related procedures beyond their training because healthcare agencies are not willing to travel 40 miles.  How do you transport a bed-bound patient to a doctor’s office 35 miles away with no medical transportation services?  How can you provide the proper care to a loved-one when skilled nurses are unwilling to travel to your location?  Caregiving is difficult, but lack of proper resources makes it more stressful and overwhelming.  Respite care?  Yeah right!  That’s a luxury provided by a family member every couple months.

Caregivers and care-recipients living in rural communities deserve more resources.  Location shouldn’t hinder the quality of care received by a loved-one.  Do you live in “Rural America”?  How can homecare resources be improved?  Leave a comment!  Thank you!         

    

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.  Homecare costs are expensive!  Seek financial assistance through government programs such as Medicaid.  Some states offer waiver 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 receive compensation for providing caregiving services?  Take advantage of 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

Is the care-recipient a veteran or 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 the most organized person.  When searching for dependable homecare services, research 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 offering delivered 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 provide a platform for asking questions and receiving insightful responses to 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 deserved help by utilizing offered resources.  Please share!  Thank you and take care!   

Mid-Week Motivation for the Caregiver….Quote #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 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?  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 rewarding, but do we care too much?  Is there such a thing as caring too much?

We caregivers have very nurturing, caring, independent mentalities.  These mind-sets wreak havoc on our health and create unsatisfactory care environments.  Caregiving is mentally and physically draining. 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 encountered by caregivers. The most mentally exhausting emotion during my caregiving journey was guilt.  I was devoting my life to the happiness and well-being of a loved-one.  Why did I feel guilty?

After her second stroke, my grandmother received all nutrition and hydration through a feeding tube.  She couldn’t eat or drink 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 not 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, I knew my responsibilities would 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. 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 exists during and after caregiving.  Because of 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.  Please share this post to prepare other caregivers for their emotional but rewarding journey.  Thank you and good luck! 

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 smiles and understanding give the impression everything’s 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.”  How can you help a caregiver that refuses assistance?  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.  Show appreciation for their devotion.
  2. Caregiving is costly especially when living on a limited income.  Provide 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 medications.
  4. Balancing family and caregiving is difficult.  Offer free childcare services to the caregiver.

Directly assisting a caregiver in their own environment can be difficult.  Most have a set daily schedule.  Any deviation from this schedule can cause unwanted stress.  How can you directly help a caregiver without interfering with their daily schedule?  

  1. Prepare meals for both the patient and caregiver.  Deliver meals a few times per week.  When preparing meals abide by proper diet restrictions.
  2. Depending on the patient’s medical condition, homecare can involve massive amounts of laundry daily.  Volunteer to pick up and drop off laundry during the week.
  3. Offer transportation for medical appointments.  “Free” 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 beneficial.  The caregiver is able to enjoy activities outside of their duties, enabling them to de-stress and recharge.  A healthy caregiver can consistently provide quality care to the patient.

Caregivers can be stubborn.  This stubbornness will eventually lead to stress and burnout.  As a third-party, you can indirectly and directly assist the caregiving process by providing your time and services.  Don’t take “NO” for an answer.  Work behind-the-scenes and provide deserved support.  Thank you and good luck!