By: Sherry Netherland, Director of Special Projects for Assisted Healthcare Services
Former First Lady, Roslyn Carter, said, “There are four kinds of people in the world – those who have been caregivers, those who currently are caregivers, those will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.”
Caring for a loved one who becomes chronically ill or disabled causes a tremendous emotional upheaval in the life of a family. Illness and disability are never convenient, but when they must be dealt with a little planning can go a long way.
Managing time whenever possible will be the biggest saver of your sanity. Avoid chaos by planning ahead whenever possible. Set a schedule and include FUN. Caregiving can be so overwhelming, we forget that we are allowed to enjoy ourselves which will aide in the stress of caregiving.
- Start by listing all the standing appointments – even ones that happen infrequently. Keep them on a visible calendar (To parents of children involved in after school sports the role of chauffeur is a familiar one.)
- Try and bunch appointments together as much as the patient can tolerate. If traveling in a car is difficult for a patient, having all those appointments in one day might be easier. You can control when standing appointments happen more than you think. Start with the MD whose schedule is the most limiting and then work the others in who might be more flexible. Make appointments for the next visit prior to leaving the doctor’s office (even if that appointment is 6 months to a year away). The further out you make appointments, usually the more control you have over them.
- Try and group doctor appointments by geography to minimize the stress by not having to drive all over town.
- Make yourself aware of community resources
- If you are caring for an aging parent, sign up at the local senior center.
- They might have a social services professional connected with the center who can assist your parent with signing up for transportation resources such as Medi-Ride or taxi vouchers.
- It can be a social outlet for your parent.
- Other types of assistance may be available in your area, e.g., low cost housekeeping services for seniors.
- Ask for help. It is not a weakness, it is a strength. If your parent has a particular disease, go to their website (American Diabetes Association, Alzheimer’s Association, American Parkinson’s Association, American Heart Association, etc.) There might be a caregiver support group in your area. Sharing with other caregivers is a good way to pick up some tips and a safe place to vent your frustrations which is very healthy.
- Take care of yourself
- Maintain good nutrition.
- Try not to eat “on the run” in your car.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Take time for fitness – even if it’s just a walk around the block. Staying fit improves your outlook on life.
- Know when a professional caregiving service needs to be brought on board. See my blog post from May 1, 2012 “New to Having a Caregiver? Assisted Has 5 Simple Suggestions.”
Know your limits. Caregiving might be a long term commitment for you. You don’t want to burn yourself out. You are eating an elephant – it’s okay to do it one bite at a time.
Sherry Netherland is the Director of Special Projects for Assisted Healthcare Services, a Medicare certified, CHAP accredited home health agency with 7 branches in California and Arizona. She founded the Assisted Speakers Bureau and she speaks on a variety of healthcare related issues. To learn more about private duty nursing and how Assisted can help, http://www.assisted1.com/types-of-care/home-health/.