Have you glanced at your mother and thought she seemed frail? Have you wondered whether your dad is taking his pills? Or maybe your once-quick-witted, never-forget-a-thing spouse has trouble remembering simple tasks.
Suddenly, you are in the role of caregiver. And while daunting, you are not alone. In fact, November is National Family Caregiver Month, and is devoted to helping you care for your loved ones.
The term “caregiver” is defined as anyone who provides unpaid assistance to an older adult, be it transportation, grocery shopping, preparing meals, yard work, house cleaning, bathing, dressing or helping them to pay bills — anything the older person can no longer do independently.
But there is an emotional component. Seeing an aging or ill parent or spouse become increasingly dependent on outside help may give way to fear, anger and subsequent guilt. For people who have children and jobs, including caregiving duties in the mix can cause burnout.
The National Family Caregivers Association is here to help and offers 10 Tips for Family Caregivers on their website at thefamilycaregiver.org.
1. Make some time for yourself by taking respite breaks often. You deserve them and it will make you a better caregiver.
2. See your doctor if you experience any symptoms of depression symptoms.
3. When people offer to help, take them up on it. Don’t be a hero; you don’t have to go it alone.
4. Learn all you can about your loved one’s condition and about the best way to communicate with doctors.
5. Be open to new technologies that can help your loved one be independent. Amazing things are invented every day.
6. Trust your instincts. They usually won’t steer you wrong.
7. Be careful of your back if you are doing any lifting or transferring of your loved one.
8. Allow yourself to dream new dreams and to grieve your losses.
9. Get support from others caregivers as in a support group which can keep you from feeling isolated and alone.
10. Stand up for yourself as a caregiver.
For information on caregiving, contact your local area agency on aging at 877-353-3771.
Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging.