Sometimes in life, we all need a little support and guidance as we maneuver job changes, relationships, and taking on the role of family caregiver. Much like life coaches, there are now Caregiver Consultants, who can provide a variety of resources for the frazzled caregiver.
Meet Elizabeth Miller, family caregiver and now Certified Caregiver Consultant who offers free advice on her website, Happy Healthy Caregiver, and in private sessions. She shares how she became an expert (hint: she didn’t start out happy and healthy) and what she suggests for these feeling overwhelmed.
HWCG: Who seeks out your services and why?
HHC/Elizabeth: One difficulty I and other caregiver advocates can have is that many family caregivers don't self-identify as a 'family caregiver'. We need all the help we can get evangelizing this term and often have to tell people this is what they are so they can find the support and resources available to them.
Much of what I do is writing, speaking, and sharing my self-care messages socially. This is a difficult question to answer since I truly believe one never knows who they are inspiring or motivating.
HWCG: How do you coach people when caregiving needs can change frequently?
HHC/Elizabeth: The foundational component of my consulting service is empathy. Often times a family caregiver just needs to talk to someone that 'gets it' and will listen without judgement. I ask many questions in my 1:1 sessions so that we can uncover what the family caregiver truly wants and then I help them uncover potential solutions.
HWCG: It sounds like your family has done a combination of family caregiving, assisted living and maybe a little professional in-home care. Do you recommend any of these or a combination to others?
HHC/Elizabeth: I believe that family caregivers need to have a plan A, plan B, plan C and so on. Each situation is unique depending upon availability of family and friends, level of care required, and desire to help with caregiving. My mom requires a high level of personal and medical care. The best option after my dad passed was to move her into an assisted living community near my brothers and me. I work full-time and have two teenagers at home so living with us wasn't an option. My sister had a life change about 18 months after mom was living in the community and was willing and able to care for mom full-time. Caregiving is never a one-person job. Even at the assisted living my brothers and I were spending 5-10 hours a week caring for mom. Now that my sister cares for mom full-time, she has a couple different trusted caregivers that she calls upon when she needs to leave town or take a break. We've also used home care professionals to fill in the gaps. I recommend creating a list of your care team members with contact information. Start the home care paperwork before an emergency happens so that you can call on them as needed.
HWCG: Your journey to being happy and healthy included some personal lifestyle changes. Can you talk about why you feel this is so important for family caregivers?
HHC/Elizabeth: Self-care for a family caregiver must be a priority. With so many others often counting on this person, caregiver burnout is prone to happen unless the family caregiver is taking precautions to keep up their energy, immunity, physical and mental health. Often times, there is no way to know how long the caregiving journey will last. Self-care habits are doable while caregiving. Happy Healthy Caregiver is all about sharing small incremental tips to integrate self-care into a caregiver's life.
HWCG: So, if I’m helping out my Mom how do I know when I need a caregiver consultant?
HHC/Elizabeth: I wish I had a Certified Caregiving Consultant when I first started. This is essentially why I created Happy Healthy Caregiver. I offer a free 30-minute consultation so that family caregivers get a taste of what it is like to work with me. When a person prefers a group support environment, I recommend my monthly Daughterhood Circle meetup.
Learn more at http://happyhealthycaregiver.com/.