Seniors are often faced with the prospects of living alone. Their children have moved out and are raising their own families. Aside from the psychological effect of having been left behind by loved ones, they also struggle to cope with running errands and activities of daily living.
That is not always the case. Many seniors are being cared for by caregivers on a day-to-day or part-time basis. Approximately 40-60 million Americans are considered caregivers to some capacity. A caregiver may be a family member, neighbor, or paid home care workers. They see to it that seniors get to take their medicines on time, monitor their blood pressure and perform other related things to assist seniors in everyday activities.
Caregivers are mostly compassionate people who are willing to devote their time and resources. Unfortunately, they are also subjected to enormous stress while doing their job. They often have a lot to think about and are prone to negative experiences such as:
• Fatigue and exhaustion
• Social Isolation
• Anger towards elder and self
• Sadness and grief
• Lack of control
• Frustration over lack of knowledge of elder’s condition
• Guilt for not doing enough
• Own negative views about death and dying
• Pressure in balancing family demands
• Caregiver burnout
All caregivers are confronted by some or all of these emotions regularly. Caring for older people is really stressful. It can be quite severe that elder abuse or neglect cases can happen. While there is never an excuse for abusing anyone, we can understand some of the factors that can lead to it.
However, caregiving can also be a very rewarding experience. The bond that is formed between the caregiver and the elder is often cited as fulfilling enough to stay on the job. If we can just try to address the negative stressors, then caregivers can do a much better job in caring for the elderly. How can caregivers ease some of the difficulties? Here are some ways.
Look after yourself
Perhaps the foremost consideration for a caregiver is learning how to take care of themselves. How can you render effective care if you have not paid attention to your own health? Eat a healthy diet, sleep well and engage in regular exercise. Leading a healthy lifestyle can lessen your fatigue. You will have much more energy caring for your elder. Pay attention to your mental and spiritual health too. Bringing a positive attitude to work and fostering a caring disposition based on faith can have a dramatic impact on your work as a caregiver.
Give yourself frequent breaks
When caring for old people with chronic and debilitating conditions, fatigue and burnout can set in quickly. Sometimes you need to step back and relieve some stress. Taking a vacation can rejuvenate you. Schedule some relaxation time and pamper yourself on a spa. Go out with friends on a Friday night, watch a movie, or take that hiking trip you have always planned on doing. Take up a new hobby or whatever suits your fancy. Doing other things can replace the doom and gloom of your work conditions with happy memories.
Seek help if needed
If you absolutely need to do something important, ask a favor from another family member or friend to take over for you. You can also tap community resources that cater to seniors to send some temporary caregivers to drop by and check the elder. Home health care services are also available from local facilities. The National Family Caregiver Support Program and elderly support agencies at the state level provides plenty of help. These include not only temporary home care workers but also education and training for caregivers, as well as giving assistive devices, home modifications and transportation services.
Communicate with the family
Sometimes, family members would rather leave all the decision-making to a lone caregiver. Life is hectic and they all seem to be so busy. However, the ideal approach is to communicate with one another regarding expectations and decisions of care. Meeting regularly and getting the input of everyone is always the best approach. The burden to care for an elderly loved one is too much to bear for a single person. Everybody’s participation will help ease that burden and will result to better outcomes. Caring for a loved one is ultimately everyone’s responsibility.
Caregiving exacts a heavy toll physically, emotionally, financially and psychologically. As a caregiver, it is important to recognize that you need to take care of yourself, seek help, and engage as many people to help as possible.
The elderly population of 65 years old and above is estimated to quadruple in the next thirty years. More caregivers are needed to take care of them in the future. Take pride in what you are doing and remember that your job is all about love and compassion. You deserve all the respect that you receive.