wheelchair assistant

Not the Same Old Caregiver Advice

Doctors, nurses, friends and family all tell you that you need to take care of yourself or you can’t sustain your caregiving efforts (averaging 4.5 years per AARP) for an elderly parent or disabled family member.  Sure, that advice is what I wrote about in “The Reluctant Caregiver“.  That advice is easy to give but not so easy to accept.

Respite Care

Before we get to the Not-the Same advice, there is the topic of Respite Care.  People feel guilty when leaving their loved one in the hands of a stranger, if even for a few hours.  Maybe you are lucky enough to find a respite program that you trust.  Visiting Angels in Nashua, NH, is a well-respected agency providing respite care among other more comprehensive home-care services.

Respite care is a service that provides professional caregivers for a fee (typically $15 to $40 per hour).  The visiting caregiver will care for your loved one while you get some time off. Caregiver

In addition, they can:

  • Do laundry
  • Light housekeeping
  • Meal preparation
  • Medication Reminders
  • Assistance with bathing and dressing

It is worth the search, to get a few hours of time to yourself for exercise or meeting up with friends.

Not-the-Same-Old Advice

Developing new habits like setting boundaries, ordering meals-on-wheels, visiting nurses or calling a sibling for help might be unrealistic for you.  Let’s face it, human behavior is not easy to change.  If you are already the one caring for your elderly parents, chances are you will have difficulty adapting to a mindset that puts yourself first.

You also may not be good at asking for help, which can create negative feelings of guilt and shame for you.  That is a topic for another blog or maybe leave it to Brene Brown (Daring Greatly) to explain.

Still, your own health and sanity might depend on your ability to adapt and develop new habits and practices.  So here is my unconventional advice:

  • Recruit a Sponsor: take a page from the AA handbook (Alcoholics Anonymous) and recruit a sponsor.  This is the person who has agreed to be there for you when you are at the end of your rope.  When you have run out of patience and need to vent.
  • Get Creative: this could be something as simple as coloring in a book to renting a “maker’s space” cubicle for metal sculpting.  Creating something of your own (knitting, playing the guitar, video editing, fingernail artistry…) will feed your inner self.  As human’s we love to produce and we find fulfillment in what we make.  No matter how ugly or beautiful.  We are proud and that makes us stand a little taller.
  • Stand Taller: the body keeps the score.  Standing taller – better posture – will feed back to your brain and make you mentally feel stronger.  Do a few fist pumps in the air and now you are celebrating!  Your brain doesn’t know that you are celebrating the way your mother can now get up from her recliner with the help of the new interior lift mechanism.  Your brain just knows you are celebrating, and it will be gushing with happy hormones!  Same is true of a simple smile.  Warm your emotions with a smile.

Because the average duration of caregiving is 4.5 years, it is worth noting that you don’t have to be the primary caregiver for your elderly parents.  Maybe that model is not right for you and your family.  But if it is, go into it wide-eyed and aware of the challenges and complications.  And know you are not alone – there are currently 9.5 million family caregivers in America. (www.caregiving.org)

Caregiver Infographic