I cannot think of anything more draining, physically and emotionally than taking care of a sick and/or elderly family member when you have chronic health conditions yourself. Caregiving is challenging all by itself. Over the past two years, I’ve been much more involved with helping my elderly parents. I’ve learned a few things on this journey and want to share them with you.
Tips For Caregiving
Tip #1: Enlist helpers
Evaluate what you can reasonably do with your limitations, and what your loved one needs. You may be able to help with some tasks, but not with others. Ask family members to help carry the load. The more people you can enlist to help, the more likely you’ll be able to help your loved one. This can be as simple as having a friend or grandchild take your parent to the store when you don’t have the spoons for it. Or it could entail paying for someone to stay overnight with your loved one so you can get some rest.
Tip #2: Use as many home delivery services as you can.
If your loved one was used to driving to the drug store for prescriptions, see if their pharmacy delivers. If not, check their insurance plan to see if they cover a pharmacy that delivers in their area. I’m in the process of changing my parent’s pharmacy, because their old pharmacy is a farther drive away than I can manage.
Take advantage of local delivery services whether it be take-out or groceries. In my opinion, any time I can avoid going to a store to shop is a win for my energy levels. Order online if possible.
Tip #3: Help Your Loved Ones Arrange Their Tasks & Home More Efficiently.
Are their current beds and chairs still easy for them to use? Can they navigate easily in their home with a walker or cane, or does some furniture need moved? When my mom broke her pelvis last month, she agreed that stepping up onto a stool to get into her bed wasn’t really manageable anymore. My brother and his wife helped get and install a lower bed for her. I couldn’t do this task by myself. Remember to enlist helpers.
Can they reach the things they use everyday without standing on chairs or stepstools? Maybe a cupboard or the refrigerator needs to be rearranged? Notice how easy it is for them to manage, and ask questions like, “Would it be easier if that item were moved to a closer spot?
Tip #4: Ask questions as much as possible instead of telling them what to do.
No one wants to be told what to do. We don’t like it, and neither do our loved ones. Adapting to physical changes that require help for daily tasks is depressing for all of us. As far as you can, give your loved one choices. It helps them feel like they haven’t lost all control over their lives.
Tip #5: Set Boundaries As Needed
Having chronic illnesses is exhausting. Taking care of sick loved ones is exhausting, too. Their will be times when what your loved one wants isn’t something you can do. For example, my dear dad loves to go out shopping. He and mom used to go out 3-4 times a week. Since the pandemic has been here, I’ve switched to shopping about once every two weeks. I physically cannot go out that often. And I cannot go to 7 places in one day trip. I had to tell them I could not do that. Now my sister-in-law takes him shopping.
Setting boundaries is never easy, and it’s especially hard when it’s your parents. Once again Enlist Help. If you don’t set boundaries, I can guarantee you will not be able to continue caregiving. After my mom got home from rehab, I got a sinus infection and spent the next nine days resting. I was exhausted, because I did too much, and ate the wrong foods. Learn from my experience.
- Resources, Gadgets and Tools to Care for an Older Adult at Home This article addresses safety issues, apps and services for falls, help for locating wanderers, and paid in-home services.
2. For those who live in the United States, each state has an Area Agency On Aging. These provide state and local community resources to help keep your loved one safely at home. Just do a Google search for your state plus Area Agency on Aging to find these resources.
3. If your loved one is a Veteran, start your search here: https://choose.va.gov/
4. AgingCare.com “connects families who are caring for aging parents, spouses, or other elderly loved ones with the information and support they need to make informed caregiving decisions.” This resource contains an A to Z list of topics with important information.
5. Caring for Yourself When Caring for Another Taking care of yourself is essential when taking care of others.
Wrap-Up of Caregiving Tips
Here’s my final and most important tip: Make taking care of you your first priority. Like they say on airplane safety instructions, you have to put your own oxygen mask on first BEFORE you help others with their mask. If we don’t prioritize our own well being we won’t be able to take care of anyone else.
I’d love to hear your tips below! Till next time, Kathy
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