Acting as a caregiver for a senior with a debilitating condition is a stressful proposition for anyone. It can be a physically and emotionally daunting task, and the dire circumstances can make the job seem unrewarding and hopeless.
However, by preparing yourself for the role and following good, healthy practices, you can make the most of the situation and focus on the wellbeing of not only the senior you are providing care for, but yourself as well. Here are nine tips to help you survive being a caregiver giving the best care possible..
One of the best ways to prepare yourself for acting as a caretaker for a senior is to be as educated as possible about their condition. Learn about what kind of symptoms are associated with a given illness and be aware of what types of symptoms might indicate more serious problems. Learn about any preventative practices you can take as a caregiver, and what routines the person in need can undertake to mitigate issues of discomfort. The more you know about what is going on the more you will be able to help.
Look at the Entire Situation
Make sure you take the time to assess everything that is happening to the person you are caring for. As new problems arise, make sure you try to understand how these relate to the issues that were already bothering the person in need. There are a wide variety of professionals who can help you understand what is going on with the senior in need. Seeking out a geriatrician or similar professional can help you evaluate the situation and recommend solutions that can be a great help.
Be as Flexible as Possible
As degenerative conditions progress, the individual that you are caring for will require different types of care. You should be ready to reevaluate the situation many times over the course of your caregiving, both for yourself and the individual in need. One of the worst situations you can create both for yourself and the senior you are helping is to wait until a situation reaches a crisis point, when your options will not only be more limited, but will need to be made quickly, without the benefit of a planning phase.
Try to Make Small Changes
When you are acting as a caregiver for a senior, an important part of the process is to encourage them to accept your help. Making small changes in their, and your own, routine will help ease the transition as you provide more and more support for them as time goes on. Make it clear that the help you are providing now will be vital in their overall ability to remain independent and healthy.
Encourage your Senior to be Involved in Choices That Need to be Made
When faced with difficult situations that ultimately require the help of a caregiver, there are a lot of important decisions that need to be made. Try to encourage the senior you are working with to be active in making those decisions. It is, of course, important to acknowledge that they will sometimes not be suited to make these choices, due to disability or illness. Even if they are hindered by an unfortunate situation, it is more often than not possible for the individual to participate in the decision making process to a certain degree, and you should encourage this as much as possible.
Develop a Plan
When acting as a caregiver for a senior, it is important to know which options are available for you and the individual in need. Take the time to research the different types of services you can find in your community that can help you care for your senior in need. Figure out what kind of alternative living options are nearby, and what kind of in-home help can be found. Figure out any financial choices that need to be made and take the time to discuss end of life issues with the senior in need so they can execute a will.
Look for Help When You Need It
Being a caregiver isn't about doing everything that the person you are caring for needs all by yourself! Look to your family for support, and see if your friends can do anything to lighten your workload and enlist professional care to take care of the things you cannot. Be aware of your limits, and seek assistance when you need it. It is important that you don't overload yourself, as this can lead to quality of care issues for the senior you are helping. It can also lead to your own physical and mental health issues, such as severe stress or even PTSD. Learn more about avoiding and coping with potential PTSD from caregiving here.
Keep in Mind Your Successes
As an individual's overall situation worsens, it can be hard to remain positive about the entire situation. That is why it is vitally important to keep in mind the things that you have done well and have done to help your senior loved one. There may be times when you worry that you made the wrong decision, but it is important not to focus on this. Think of how the senior in need has benefited from your involvement, and keep working to keep them well.
Don't Forget About Yourself!
Trying to provide care for a senior whose health is deteriorating is one of the most stressful situations you will ever find yourself in. That is why it is important to keep yourself healthy and ready for the challenges ahead. Make sure that you stay healthy by getting enough sleep and eating well. Find a way to relax when you are not caring for your senior. If you find the challenging to emotionally taxing find a support group or seek a counselor who can help you explore those issues.
Acting as a caregiver is a long and difficult process, but by following these basics, hopefully you can find a way to deal with the situation in a way that is helpful to both yourself and the senior in need.