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Caring for an Aging Loved One

April 04, 2020

Caring for an Aging Loved One

With hospital stays becoming shorter and medical costs rising, more families have to make difficult decisions about their loved ones.  The aging population is growing; and while the details may be different, caring for an aging loved one is becoming commonplace in homes around the country.  Over 65 million Americans are currently caring for a loved one.  Of those caregivers, nearly two-thirds work outside the home in addition to tending to their family member. 

Caregiver Responsibilities

Caregivers help in many areas, including grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, paying bills, and   administering medication.  Also, they often assist with helping a loved one bathe, eat, dress, and use the restroom, but there is much more involved than the physical care of an aging loved one.  At times, the emotional needs may be even greater.  Loss of their home, health, and/or brain function can be physically, emotionally, and mentally draining to both the patient and caregiver.  There might also be communication needs, where you are functioning as the spokesperson for your loved one.  It’s essential to be mindful of yourself and your needs as a caregiver; as caregiving places unique demands on an individual and on the family unit. 

 

Involving Your Aging Loved Ones

Respecting your loved one and keeping them involved in the caregiving process is both honoring and dignifying for them.  Long-term planning regarding medical, financial, and housing situations is critical; and your aging loved one should be included in all those decisions.  

Health and medical guidance from doctors, home health aides, and physical and/or occupational therapists will serve invaluable in the transition.  You might have questions about how diseases might progress, how to make your caregiving experience easier, and how to prevent injury to yourself and aging loved one.  Researching the growing number of assistive devices can also be very helpful, as this technology can allow your loved one to assume more daily responsibility, and to enjoy greater mobility in life. 

 

Communication with Your Family

Communication in any family is tricky at times.  Maneuvering emotionally charged topics, like caregiving, can be especially difficult.  Here are some proven strategies to help guide your conversation:

  • If your loved one is battling memory loss, important conversations may be more complicated. Give yourself plenty of time, be patient with your loved one(s), and remove distractions from the room. 
  • Clearly convey your point of view without manipulating or coercing agreement. The recipient of care should be actively involved in the process as much as they can be. 
  • Listen carefully to others’ thoughts and ideas. Communicate and show respect for their thinking, even if you disagree.
  • Plan important conversations ahead of time. Outline your main points, so as not to do all the talking.  Avoid blaming anyone or attempting to “win” the argument.  Remember, an honest and honorable conversation is the goal.  

Care for the Caregiver

While the task of caregiving holds rewards like precious time and memories, it also may take a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional health.  You will only be able to care for another to the degree you care for yourself.  Some caregiver stress symptoms are fatigue, irritability, changes in sleep and weight, and losing interest or pleasure in activities.  Without proper attention these indicators place you at risk for depression and anxiety.  The following are some helpful strategies for dealing with caregiver stress:

  • Use teamwork- Ask others where they would like to help, and let them. When family members choose their tasks they are more likely to stick with them. 
  • Say goodbye to guilt- Guilt is never a helpful emotion. Not everything will be perfect, so focus on what you can do rather than the limitations.  Remember, asking for help is a sign of great strength and humility.
  • Stay informed- Many nonprofit organizations offer classes about aging, dementia, and other caregiving topics.
  • Keep connections- Family members may need ideas or help to figure out how to be involved. Maintain strong connections by keeping everyone informed. Don’t assume people aren’t interested if they don’t ask you for information.
  • Update your doctor- Inform your doctor of your caregiving responsibilities so he or she can be on the lookout for caregiver stress indicators.
  • Be healthy- Maintaining good sleep, eating, and exercise habits are necessities for you. Do not feel guilty or apologize for taking care of yourself.
  • Seek support- Knowing you are not alone is vital. There are many support groups as well as individual counseling opportunities that specifically cater to caregivers.

Remember, caring for an aging loved one is a “transitional” time.  Essentially, roles are reversing as the adult child becomes the “parent,” and frustration and discomfort are common if dealing with an uncooperative family member.  While there will be bumps in the road and sacrifices to be made, the opportunity to spend this limited time with your aging loved one can be a priceless gift. 

 

Want to talk to a counselor today about this? 

Call Amplified Life at 800-453-7733 and ask for your “Free 15 Minute Phone Consultation" with one of our licensed counselors. We’ll listen, answer questions you may have, and help you plan next steps.

Sources:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/stress-management/in-depth/caregiver-stress/art-20044784

http://www.altsa.dshs.wa.gov/caregiving/agingparent.htm