Caring FAQs

Tips and resources for caring for the elderly

Tips for Making Family Caregiving Easier

As a family caregiver, you may find yourself facing a host of new responsibilities, many of which are unfamiliar or intimidating. At times, you may feel overwhelmed and alone. But despite its challenges, caregiving can also be rewarding. And there are a lot of things you can do to make the caregiving process easier for both you and your loved one. These tips can help you get the support you need while caring for someone you love. Read more at helpguide.org.

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10 Caregiver Tips for Care of the Elderly

Source: EZineArticles.com

The caregiver role is complex and differs for everyone depending on the needs of the care-receiver. Many times, in the beginning, there may only be a few needs, such as providing transportation or helping with shopping or cooking.

Over time, needs increase, requiring additional services, until the care-receiver is fully dependent on the caregiver. Here are some tips to help you get started:

1. Every caregiver should know as much as possible about the care-receiver. You should know their characteristics and personality style. For example, you should know their likes, dislikes, family members, ailments, etc.

You should know if the care-receiver is outgoing or reserved, task-oriented or people-oriented. Once you get to know them better you will be able to understand their needs and behavior patterns.

2. Every caregiver should know and understand his/her responsibilities, duties, and tasks. As a caregiver, you have a responsibility to be sensitive to the needs of the care-receiver, and to find a way to satisfy their needs.

This may require you to enlist the help of others. The duties of the caregiver usually change and increase over a period of time. Set up and follow a care plan.

Recording essential daily information will assist everyone on the Care Team. It also allows another caregiver to take your place fairly easily.

3. Stay updated on the health condition of the care-receiver.

As the health of the elder deteriorates and more needs start to surface, it is important for the caregiver to find out how to cope with them.

Keep a log of his/her daily activities (medicine taken, food intake, sleep habits, temperament, etc.) so that you will always have a snapshot view of their current health. This information will help the doctor get a more complete picture of the condition of the care-receiver.

4. Assist as little as possible in tasks the senior can usually handle himself/herself. Just as it is not easy being a caregiver, it is not always easy being a care-receiver.

The gradual loss of independence and control over just about everything is difficult to accept. Remember, seniors have the right to their dignity and pride.

5. Caregivers should express warmth and concern towards the welfare of the care-receiver.

If the care-receiver has a poor self image or feelings of inferiority, the caregiver may have to provide reassurance while ignoring negative behavior.

A caregiver must have patience (and stamina) for change in moods.

6. Be a good listener. Many times seniors may simply want you to listen. They want to share their stories. Caregivers must be careful to avoid put downs and choosing sides.

Pay attention and be able to connect the dots between past, present, and future. Listen intuitively or use your sixth sense to hear underlying messages.

7. Smile a lot. Be a good friend and companion. Be as positive as possible.

8. When friends and family neglect to call or visit, do not hesitate to remind them.

9. Ask for help. Advocate for what you need. Sharing the care of a loved-one benefits everyone.

10. Maintain your self-composure and avoid stress. Elder abuse can occur as a result of caregiver stress.

It is imperative that you are aware of and deal with stress.

Tips for Taking Care of Elderly Parents

Source: AgingCare.com

Family caregivers generally earn their job title in one of two ways. The first is what I call the “sneak up mode.” The second is “crisis mode.”

Sneak-Up Mode

For me, caregiving began with an elderly neighbor who needed some assistance. This “assistance” turned into a five-year stint of elder care, closely followed by the ever increasing needs of six of my own family members. For all but one of my elders – my dad whose failed brain surgery sent him into severe dementia – care needs gradually increased.

I can clearly remember the day when I finally woke up to the fact that I had a full-time job as a caregiver, even though, technically, I wasn’t “working” at the time. Had I had more family caregivers to communicate with, I may have realized earlier how much my caregiver role had slowly overtaken my life.

Would the knowledge have helped me understand that I needed to take better care of myself? I don’t know. Hindsight is interesting, but doesn’t change the past. My caregiving years started at a time when family caregiving wasn’t big news. You just did what you did, and there wasn’t a great deal of support – official or casual.

Crisis Mode

Since I was already heavily involved in family caregiving by the time my dad’s surgery sent him into instant dementia, the event, emotionally devastating as it was, didn’t change my caregiving situation all that much. Dad’s terrible outcome from the surgery just immersed me deeper into my role.

Many people, however, are just living their lives – working their jobs, raising their children and visiting relatively healthy parents from time to time – when, bam! Out of the blue, Dad has a stroke. He’s hospitalized. He survives. However, he’s partially paralyzed, will need months of therapy, and will not likely ever be the same again. Caregivers experiencing these crisis events hit the graduate level of caregiving before they even have a chance to do undergraduate study.

No matter how you entered into your caregiving role, you will have to make changes in your life. There is a considerable amount of help these days through sites like AgingCare.com and many diseases specific websites, as well as your state website.

Family Caregiving Recognized by Professionals

Even the government website, Medicare.gov, has ramped up efforts to help family caregivers. I find this significant, since during my early days of caregiving the average doctor was very ready to dismiss the opinion of a family caregiver, or even considered the caregiver a nuisance. Certainly no government site was out to support the caregivers of our elderly and disabled.

So, yes, there is help out there. But where do you start? You must begin to plan if you are not going to undermine your own health while you care for others.

Setting Boundaries

Setting boundaries has never come naturally to me when it comes to someone I love. Yet, I had to learn and so must you. If caregivers have no boundaries and just blindly do whatever is asked of them at all times, they may burnout before they know what’s happening.

Healthy emotional boundaries are important in helping the caregiver distinguish between his or her own needs and the needs of the person being cared for. Boundaries remind you and your loved one that your relationship is between two adults and that there need to be expectations of mutual respect and autonomy for the relationship to be successful. set boundaries and make them clear.

Be Flexible as You Settle In

If you’ve been in crisis mode, after the crisis settles down and you’ve figured out some kind of care plan you will likely need to tweak your boundaries. Naturally, if your dad has another stroke, you’re not going to say, “I’m done for the day. Someone else handle this.” Life happens. However, even long-term caregiving will shift as life moves forward and the care receiver’s needs increase. This is the time when, if you haven’t done so before, you’ll likely need to get outside help.

Research Types of Help for Different Needs

  • There are ways to get help with caregiving, though not as many as we’d like. Many are expensive. Still, organizations such as Catholic Charities offer the help of people who can sit with your elder while you do errands.
  • Your state website will have a version of the National Family Caregiver Support Program, where you can contact people who have been in your shoes. Go to your state website, type “aging” in the search box, and you should find some state resources.
  • Talk with other caregivers through support groups either online or in person. The AgingCare.com community is a great place to start!
  • The Alzheimer’s Association offers a broad range of support and can answer many of your questions.
  • Your local hospital, your local religious organizations and even nursing homes will likely have lists of in-person support groups you can attend.
  • Online sites are fantastic, in that most caregivers are pressed for time and many have a hard time getting to a group meeting.

The point is, get support from other caregivers. Ask people who have been in the trenches what they did that worked, what they did that they’d do differently, and what they advise. Then, take a look at your boundaries, do more soul searching, and get some help.

You need to look inward to yourself as much as outward to your loved one. If you develop severe caregiver health problems, you may not be able to help this person you have nearly given your life for. Put on your oxygen mask before your put one on the person you love. If you don’t, you both may go down.

Elderly Driving and Transportation Needs

Source: WebMD.com

Transportation can be a sensitive and tricky issue for elderly drivers and their caregivers. How do you know if your loved one is still safe to drive? How will he feel when he no longer has the freedom to go where he wants? And if he can’t drive, are you thrust into the role of chauffeur, or are there other options? Here are some tips for caregivers to consider.

  • Have an open dialogue. If it’s possible, caregivers should keep their loved ones involved in the discussion about driving. Find out what she thinks. Does she want to keep driving? Where does she want to be able to go each week? Things might go more smoothly if you’re having a conversation rather than just imposing rules.
  • Keep the car in good shape. When elderly people are still driving, caregivers can head off problems by making sure the cars are well-maintained. Get the car serviced regularly and check the gas, oil, and tire pressure.
  • Watch for signs of driving problems. Your loved one may be a perfectly safe driver right now. But since driving skills can diminish suddenly, caregivers need to keep tabs on the situation. Watch for signs of trouble — getting lost, driving too slowly or too quickly, getting anxious or frustrated, and having near misses or accidents.
  • Get an independent evaluation. It’s not easy for a caregiver to decide whether a loved one is capable of driving. So contact a driver rehabilitation specialist (DRS) or call the department of motor vehicles to see if the state offers driving evaluations for elderly drivers. Some states actually require driver tests for people who get diagnosed with certain conditions, like dementia. If your loved one passes the test, she should probably take it again in six months.
  • Set consistent limits on driving. For a loved one’s safety, a caregiver may want to start imposing some restrictions on when and where an elderly loved one can drive. For instance, you might ask that he not drive after dark or in bad weather. Or you might want him to keep his trips to within town. To prevent future conflict, caregivers should stick to the limits that they’ve set down.
  • When the time comes, take away the keys. It’s not easy. But if your loved one has become a danger to herself or others while driving, you have to prevent her from getting access to a car. You have no choice. Obviously, you should try to be compassionate — remember that losing the ability to drive can make people feel isolated and desperate. See if you can get a doctor involved in the discussion, since a medical authority may make it easier for your loved one to accept the situation.
  • Car pool. If you’re doing a lot of extra driving to accommodate your loved one, remember that you’re not alone — there are plenty of other people doing the same thing. See if you can contact other caregivers and share some of the responsibilities.
  • Look into free transportation. Hospitals, senior centers, and adult day cares often provide free transportation for elderly people to and from the home.
  • Evaluate public transportation. Many regions have buses with hydraulic lifts that help people with walkers or wheelchairs. However, if a loved one isn’t used to taking the bus, a caregiver might want to take the trip with him a few times so he gets the hang of it.
  • Make a list of transportation options and keep it by the phone. Include the names and numbers of any friends, neighbors, other caregivers, shuttle services, and cab companies.
  • Consider hiring a car service. It might seem extravagant. But when you consider the costs of keeping your loved one’s own car — the insurance, gas, and maintenance — you may find that hiring a car as needed makes financial sense.

Organizations Who Offer Additional Support

American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)

601 E Street, NW
Washington, DC 20049
Phone: 202.434.2300
Fax: 202.434.2320
www.aarp.org

Medicare Rights Center

1460 Broadway
11th Floor
New York, NY 10036
Phone: 212-869-3850, ext. 19
Fax: 212.869.3532
www.medicarerights.org

National Academy of Elder Law

Attorneys (NAELA)
1604 N. Country Club Road
Tucson, AZ 85716
Fax: 520.325.7925
www.naela.org

National Council on the Aging, Inc. (NCOA)

409 Third Street, SW, 2nd Floor
Washington, DC 20024
Phone: 202.479.1200
Fax: 202.479.0735
www.ncoa.org