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“When will this end? This is all too much! I didn’t expect all of this!” I whined while on a call with my father’s attorney. I couldn’t whine too much because the minutes were adding up at several hundred dollars an hour!
I received a generous acknowledgment of caregiving from this elder law attorney.
Imagine you are walking in a forest and you see an acorn. You bend over to pick it up. As you continue on your way, you feel the weight growing heavier and heavier. Finally, you can’t take another step. Looking over your shoulder you see that you are carrying the whole oak tree.
We caregivers are a stubborn lot. This helps us persist when times are tough. Caregiving isn’t rocket science! How hard can it be? But when we keep trying to the detriment of our own well-being, what good are we? While caregiving doesn’t require a physics degree, it does require the fortitude of an elite mountain climber. It takes commitment and dedication. It is risky to reach the top of caregiving’s Denali or Everest. The rewards are great, IF we survive.
To survive, we must pay attention to our symptoms. We can’t keep plodding on. Even experienced mountain climbers return to camp at a lower level after heeding their body’s cries with altitude sickness. We’ll either die or do something we’ll regret. Elderly spousal caregivers have a 63% higher mortality rate than non-caregivers, according to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Don’t let these symptoms spiral out of control.
Over the last 20 years, greater awareness of family caregivers’ needs, has created a continuum of care offerings, from adult day services to palliative care. Remember, even elite mountain climbers have to return to lower altitude and rely on their support teams before trying again. Below are suggestions for giving family caregivers the opportunity to take care of themselves.
Start researching and trying out these and other care options before a crisis occurs. Set aside an hour every two weeks to do a little bit of research. Begin with referrals from caregiver friends or a health care provider. You can even visit your friend’s home while the in-home caregiver is there to see and feel how this option works for them. Then start using the services until you find one that feels comfortable for your loved one and you. Give your loved one time to adjust to having someone in the house. This way, when you have an emergency or just need a break, all you’ll need to do is call.
These care options will help reduce the five symptoms of caregiver stress. Don’t let an oak tree weigh you down during your walk in the forest. Enjoy a change of pace by using these services now before a crisis occurs.
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