A Complete Resource Guide for Caregivers: Caring for the Caregiver
Caregiving is a unique profession
Caregiving is a unique profession. It takes a special person to deal with all of the issues that one deals with in the caregiving career. For some, it is something they do for a loved one who can no longer care for themselves. For others, it is a job that they do because they enjoy helping others.
Still, despite the enjoyment they get out of helping people in need, we often hear them say things like:
“I’m just exhausted.”
“I’m irritable all of the time, and I don’t know why.”
“I just want to be my mother’s daughter again.”
These sentiments expressed by good-hearted caregivers illustrate the tension and anxiety, even depression that many in this field experience. These feeling are reasonable and understandable and many struggle with the concept of failure. They think they have failed because they are in need of support themselves from managing a loved one’s health.
To anyone reading this who is a caregiver. We understand the frustrations that you may experience. Being a caregiver takes a lot out of you. The frustrations in communicating with, caring for, and taking care of the needs of someone who can no longer take care of themselves is difficult. But you have not failed. The overwhelming feeling you have is just a natural part of the job because you put so much into your work.
If you are having these feelings, you need to seek help before your caregiver fatigue leads to more serious conditions that can affect your health or the well-being of your loved one. Stress can make you become too negative and this can carry over to the person you are trying to care for which can damage your relationship. Learn to recognize the signs of caregiver burnout so you will know what to do if you experience it.
Find Relief from Caregiver Burnout
Caring for a loved one can be overwhelming emotionally. You may be experiencing burnout if you often feel any of the following:
- Depression or negative thoughts
- Fatigue or excessive tiredness
- Highly emotional status or mood swings
- Irritability without a clear cause
- Resentment for your situation or your loved one
- Anger toward your loved one
Some caregivers also experience physical symptoms such as:
- Muscle aches
- Sleep disorders
- Loss of apetite
- Mental fatigue
If caregivers have a regular job during the day or even work at home, they may experience an increased lack of focus and other factors that start to get in the way of their work and productivity. If you are not getting enough sleep during the day, you will have problems staying awake and being as focused as you need to be. If your work quality suffers, you could lose your job or have problems doing your job the way you should.
You could say that being a caregiver produces a mental paradox. While you enjoy being able to care for your loved one and don’t want to face the alternative of bringing in an outside person or having to put your loved one in a nursing home, you feel the extreme pressure of cultural and societal expectations, as well as your own high morals and values about how you should care for your family or loved one.
This can add to the feeling of guilt during the times that you wish that you could do something else or feel the need for relief from the responsibility. This can cause further cognitive dissonance by creating a feeling of guilt and fear that clashes with the feelings of love and responsibility you have for a loved one.
How Can Caregivers Find Relief?
When it becomes overwhelming, you need help. Many caregivers find help, understanding, and support from caregiver support groups. There are many online support groups who offer caregiver support. You can find this help from local community centers, senior centers, and churches as well as online support groups. Here, you can feel safe to express your feelings of stress and get advice on how to handle it from others who understand.
Adult Daycare Centers
Adult daycare centers may provide affordable respite care for your loved one when you need a break. Respite care is meant to serve as a mental break from the stresses of caring for your loved ones by providing everything they need while you are away. This is also a chance for your loved one to socialize with others who share their predicament, which is important to their mental health. There are over 600 Area Agencies on Aging throughout the United States who can connect you to support groups, as well as adult facilities, and other local senior care resources.
Hiring in-home Health Caregivers
One solution for dealing with the stress of life as a caregiver is to hire an in-home caregiver who can help you deal with the many issues you face every day that add to the stress. Families are often afraid that the cost will be too much to bear. But you do not have to have someone live in your house in most cases all of the time. Just having someone come in two or three times per week can take a lot of the stress away.
What can caregivers do?
Caregivers can do everything from visiting with your loved one so you can get some other things done or they can help with bathing or other personal care needs in many cases. They are licensed as a caregiver in order to perform various tasks. But you need to check the policies of the organization you are dealing with to find out what they will do.
Using another caregiver once in awhile can give you a needed mental break or allow you to run errands or do other things such as a hobby or seeing your friends.
It is important to communicate to your loved one that they are loved, even though they struggle with everyday tasks due to dementia or other health issues. Aging adults feel they are burdens to their primary caregivers which can cause them to feel depression or guilt. By sharing the job with other professional caregivers, you will be able to have a needed break without feeling that you are being disloyal or neglecting your loved one.
It’s normal to feel frustrated, guilty, or helpless at times. Dementia and other mental and physical illnesses can take its toll on you, as well as your loved one. You need to find time for yourself, too in order to be the best for your loved one. The primary goal is to keep your relationship intact and to enjoy the time you spend with your loved one. By sharing the responsibility, you can rejuvenate yourself and be even better when you return.
How to Guard Seniors Against Internet Scams and Fraud
One of the dangers that are present for seniors these days is scamming attempts. Many seniors rely on the new media and technologies that allow us to stay connected. But, while it is a good thing, it can open the door for scam attempts on vulnerable seniors.
Statistics on Senior Scam Attempts
In 2017, statistics reports indicated that 70% of seniors were online. This leaves them open to scams and fraud attempts. Older people tend to be nicer to strangers, and they are less cunning about situations where they are being tricked. Seniors should be advised to be extra careful who they speak to and refrain from giving personal information out. Below are some tips to help.
How to Spot Social Media Fraud
- Avoid strange friend requests or anything out of the ordinary that doesn’t seem right.
- Liking or sharing inappropriate content. Block people who do this.
- Hateful or other behavior that is unlike someone you know.
- Private messages from strangers without reasonable cause
Do some investigative deductions to determine if their account was hacked or if it is someone fishing for information. This is actually called a “phishing” attempt and the goal is to woo unsuspecting people into getting their location information, bank numbers, and other critical data. Don’t let them do it. Seniors who are innocent to these things due to developing dementia should be watched and guided while online.
Never allow seniors who have these issues to forward messages or open suspicious texts or Facebook messages, emails, and so forth.
Avoid Email Scams
Email scams are another potential problem for seniors that may threaten their security. Malicious links and attachments can easily be attached to emails that seniors may click on because they are interested in the title. It’s important to warn seniors of this tactic and advise them not to click any links without knowing what they are. Even if they look like something they know, it can be a trick.
Additionally, you may want to add some additional internet and email protection by increasing your security level or adding anti-spam or anti-malware software. Another way to help seniors stay out of trouble when they are online is to have a secret code that your family uses to prove that it is coming from them. This may save a lot of trouble in the long run.
Steer Clear of Telephone Scams
The telephone has become a direct line for fraudsters and criminals to prey on the uneducated or innocent. They know their game and they know how to convince someone that they are legitimate. They also have access to a lot more data than they used to. Remind seniors that they should not answer unknown numbers. Scammers now also have the equipment to spoof their numbers to sound like someone important. The minute the caller asks for names or personal information, hang up and block the number.
Tips for Staying Safe on the Phone
Here are a few tips for staying safe on the phone when strangers call.
- Never give personal information even if they are pushy about it. Legitimate companies will never ask for this until they have identified themselves and proven they are legitimate.
- Do not volunteer any information that can be used to steal your identity. You should not even confirm your name until they have identified why they are calling.
- Ask for a call back number, then call them back to see if they answer the phone.
- If it is about a bill they claim you owe or other financial or legal matter, remind them that they are required to send you a letter in the regular mail.
Tips for Long-Distance Caregivers: Health Changes You Can Hear, See, and Read
If you live a long way off from your loved one, you can stay connected to your loved one through the use of modern technology. Sometimes illnesses and health conditions can crop up in what seems like a short time when you only see them once per year. You can use video chat and other technology applications to make a visual connection, though. Skype, Facebook “live,” and other applications allow you to see your loved one even though you are miles away.
Changes You Can See
Even when you do not see your loved one often, you can still look for things that may indicate some important changes in their overall health.
- Physical appearance (Hygiene, Expression, and Mobility)
- Expression (Ability to engage in conversation, etc.)
- Mobility (Difficulty in mobility may indicate health problems)
Checking out their surroundings is also a good idea so that you will know if they can take care of their home or their own. If you see excessive amounts of clutter or unsafe situations, you may need to have someone step in to check on them once in awhile.
Related reading: Help Your Loved One Avoid a Devastating Injury from a Fall
Changes You Can Hear
If you do not have the technology to communicate with your loved one visually, listen to their voice to determine if there has been a decline in their health or demeanor. Even a text message or email can indicate depression, changed mood, and other factors.
If you detect a possible respiratory problem or other similar issues, you may want to get them to a doctor for a checkup. Memory issues are sometimes a problem, and you should be aware of any changes in focus and memory that could be indications of a larger memory problem. Dementia starts slow but gets progressively worse over time.
Sometimes the problem is due to other factors such as medication reactions and other issues.
Watching for Seasonal Depression
During the Winter time, there is more of a tendency to become isolated or depressed. A seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that is brought about by a lack of a neurotransmitter known as serotonin which is produced naturally in the brain when you are exposed to light. If elderly people (or anyone) stay inside too much during the Winter, they may experience this type of seasonal depression.
Depression may also be brought on by other factors such as being alone too often, memories of the loss of a spouse, and other change of life events. If you suspect that your loved one is experiencing depression, you may want to call someone for advice which is trained to deal with these things.
How to Start Talking About Your Concerns
Seniors who are suffering from dementia and other issues are sometimes defensive about their abilities. They know that they are losing their sense of independence. This may bother them and make them upset. Use tact when discussing their needs and try not to blame the problem on them.
How to Frame Your Conversation
When talking to your loved one about their situation, use a “questioning mode” rather than an accusation mode. Keep your tone friendly and caring. Some possible questions you can ask are listed below:
- How is your health situation?
- Have you been able to winterize your home?
- We’ve been working on our gutters. Did you take care of that at your house yet?
When they evade the question, it may indicate that they are not able to take care of this on their own. In this case, you may want to schedule a visit to see if you can help them take care of things they cannot do alone or get someone to help.
Related reading: Let’s talk home care: Tips to start the conversation, address concerns.
In-home HealthCare Options
If you think that your loved one is in need of a home care agency to help your loved one, call 866-618-7827 or contact a SIGMA Home Care representative near you to learn more about how they can help with in-home caregiver support.
8 Tips for Caregivers Who Have a Loved One with Alzheimer's Disease
The statistics on Alzheimer’s Disease are harrowing. Every 70 seconds, another person develops Alzheimer’s Disease. In 2006, it was reported that there were 26.6 million sufferers around the world. By the year 2050, it is estimated that it will affect 1 out of 85 people.
Because the risk for Alzheimer’s is so great, we are using our blog to give our readers valuable information to identify critical symptoms that family caregivers can use to identify what is needed for those dealing with this terrible disease.
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease are a loss of basic memory function. But you may also notice an inability to perform everyday tasks that were easy before. It is the most common form of dementia, though dementia can exist outside of Alzheimer’s. Eventually, the person will forget the names of close friends and loved ones. There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s, though there has been a lot of research done on it. It is a progressive illness that eventually affects physical organs, and it is considered a slow but fatal disease.
Here is a list of 8 things you can do to help deal with this disease. It is often just as stressful and demanding on the family as it is for the victim of the disease. Here are some coping strategies that might help.
- Organize all of your efforts to help you provide for care and support with the CareTogether application.
- Have a plan for getting through the day. Focus on one day at a time and do your best. But remember to take breaks for your mental health.
- Ask your family doctor any questions you have about the disease. Do your research and find out what you can do to address behavioral issues or alleviate some symptoms.
- Contact the Alzheimer’s Association at http://www.alz.org or the Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center at http://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers.
- Join a local support group. Community groups may also offer some insight into how to effectively deal with Alzheimer’s Disease and provide support through group discussions and outreach.
- Develop routines and make schedules that will help you deal with your situation. Plan your day in ways that allow you to deal with your loved one at times when they are at their optimal level to make the most of these times.
- Consider using respite care or adult day care services to take care of their needs so you can get other things done. Then you can spend some quality time with them at night.
- Plan for the future. You may need to seek legal and financial advice on how to handle long-term care options and find out what services are available under your insurance plans.
Family Caregiving Resources
The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, two agencies that are involved in sharing information on the aging and Alzheimer’s patients, reported that nearly 43.5 million Americans are providing unpaid care for someone who is chronically ill or disabled. This is usually an aging family member or close friend.
Caregivers give a lot of themselves to ensure that their loved one is taken care of. They also suffer from an increased rate of depression and illness. A greater degree of support can help.
Remember that you must avoid “burn out” at all costs. If you feel depressed or overwhelmed, reach out to someone to get help. If you continue to suffer from “burn out,” the quality of care you give may be diminished. To care for others, you have to also care for yourself.
Best Caregiving Resources
One great resource for caregivers is Eldercare Locator. This is a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging that connects caregivers to older adults and families. The NCOA (National Council on Aging) is also a national leader and trusted partner in helping aging people meet their growing challenges.
Area Agencies on Aging: What do they do?
The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging has a primary mission of helping build up members and support them as they help others deal with their disabilities and to live with dignity in their homes as long as possible.
Another valuable resource is the Family Caregiver Alliance. This organization was founded in 1977, and it is the first community-based nonprofit organization in the U.S. to address family and friends’ needs who are providing long-term care at home for loved ones.
The Caregiver Action Network is the nation’s leading family organization for caregivers. Their goal is to improve the quality of life for more than 90 million Americans who suffer from age-related disease and illness.
The National Alliance for Caregiving was established in 1996. It was started as a non-profit coalition focused on improving the lives of caregivers.
ARCH (Access to Respite Care and Help) is a nonprofit organization that seeks to promote respite services for the 65 million family caregivers who help loved ones stay in their homes through their dedication and hard work. ARCH does not discriminate due to any illness or disability.
Respite care helps families improve their well-being, and they help promote family caregiver wealth. The cost of long-term care is outrageous, so even hiring someone to stay in the home 24/7 is less expensive than having to put someone in a long-term care facility. In some cases, having to institutionalize your loved one requires that they give up all personal money and belongings, too. This is especially true if it is government-funded, a policy put in by Congressional Democrats years ago related to Medicare.
The American Association of Caregiving Youth (AACY) is the only organization in the United States that identifies, recognizes and supports children who care for ill, aging and disabled family members.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
The mission of the VA is to do what President Lincoln promised, “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan” by serving and honoring the wives and loved ones of servicemen and servicewomen who gave their lives for our country.
Respite, Support Systems Necessary for Family Caregivers
Being a caregiver can be a rewarding but challenging affair. If you are not retired and still have to maintain a job, in addition to caring for an aging family member, it can take its toll on you.
Having continual support is a key factor to being able to continue in this role and provide care and support for your loved one. We believe in using local resources when possible and making sure you take time for yourself, too. This keeps you fresh and able to feel well enough to continue down this challenging road.
Hobbies can help. If you have something that you enjoy doing that takes your mind off of things awhile, this can serve to recharge your batteries and give you a more positive outlook on life. The Harvard Medical School’s Family Health Guide on caregiving recommends that you not try to be on-call all of the time.
Instead, designate the time that you will be a caregiver and stick to this. The other times are for you to make a living, tend to your own family, and other responsibilities. This will prevent you from feeling resentment toward the person you are caring for or making you feel like you no longer have your own life.
Support Systems for Caregivers
In addition to the great resources we have provided for caregivers, there are also several support systems that are available in most communities. Please feel free to use any that are available in your area.
- Mail-carrier alert program
- Home health aides
- Grocery delivery services
- Meals-on-wheels programs
- Social workers
- Respite care caregivers
Working Caregivers More Likely to Have Health Issues
You may wonder how family caregivers keep everything balanced in their lives where they still feel like they have a life while spending so much of their time with a loved one in need of care.
We have isolated some of the ideas that should be included in a work-life balance when you are a caregiver for a loved one.
- Rally support from other family members.- Hold a family meeting and tell them about your struggles and that you must have some time to yourself. Coordinate your schedules with family members and take “shifts” to care of your person in need so that no one person has to do it all of the time. You could also agree to have one family member run errands such as going to the pharmacy or getting groceries, while others stay with them and care for their needs. This could also be alternated so that you can get away sometimes and get out of a rut in your daily routine.
- Find a professional respite care agency.- You can contact a SIGMA Home Care professional to find out how respite care can give you a need break so that you can get away for awhile or have a break from the daily grind.
- Find out about the Family and Medical Leave Act- The Family and Medical Leave Act was created to allow people who have a regular job to have to take time off to care for needy family members. If you utilize this privilege, you will not lose money from your job when it becomes necessary to be away.
Care for the Caregiver: 12 Tips for Overcoming Loss
Caregivers are never truly prepared for the loss of a loved one, especially someone they have invested so much time and energy in. There is a great deal of grief involved when the person passes away, especially if it was a close family member such as a parent or spouse.
There are many different psychological issues involved in the process of grieving for the loss of a loved one. While a normal amount of grieving is expected and necessary, try not to get into a deep depression by only dwelling on your loss.
A change of habits, a new hobby, or other nuances can sometimes give a fresh new perspective on life. Some resources can help you deal with a love one’s estate if you need help doing this. This can be painful if you do it too soon after the passing of a loved one, so it’s best to wait a few weeks unless there are insurance requirements that you must take care of immediately.
Avoiding Feelings of Guilt
Some caregivers feel guilty when a loved one they have cared for dies. They may go back over things they said or did that may have hurt their loved one. But remember that it is dementia or illness that caused much of the conflict. People with these disorders are often not in their right mind, and they can say things that are accusatory or vindictive at times. Remind yourself that you did the best you could and don’t blame yourself for their illness.
It’s also important not to blame your loved one because they had no real control over the effects of their illness.
Surviving the Loss
Everyone deals with loss in a different way. CareAnswers.com recently featured a documentary that gave 12 insights of grieving by Therese A. Rando, Ph.D. She offered the following main ideas on how to deal with grief.
- No two people experience grief in the same way. Give yourself a break and realize there is no one “correct” way to deal with your emotions. Do not allow others, the media, or social norms to dictate how you deal with your personal grief.
- Remember that you are dealing with the loss of your loved one, as well as the things that you shared with your loved one, such as your family life, memories, or other situations that were unique to that person. Work on changing your perspective and habit since many of the conditions you shared with the person are no longer valid. You still have your memories, but you must carry on now without them.
- Grief is a process. Remember that it may take longer than you think to go through this process. Permit yourself to express your emotions in ways that work for you. Expect to deal with feelings that seem foreign to grief such as anger, hostility, and regret.
- Accept the reality of your loved one’s passing after you work through the denial stages. Some people also bargain with God or try to live in the past by continually going over old memories. But, for mental health, you must eventually move on without the person and accept the loss as a reality.
- Remember that grief is not the same as mourning. There is more to it than just expressing your feelings. You should show your grief but also realize you have other things to do to work through it.
- The circumstances of your loved one’s death may affect you profoundly. Try to develop an accurate appreciation of how illnesses affect those left behind. Find ways to enjoy life again through community involvement or personal friends.
- Your grief reactions do not occur in predictable ways or a fixed sequence. You may talk to others who got over their loss faster than you did. That’s okay. Be patient with yourself and learn to cope in the best way you can.
- Don’t feel that you have to totally “let go” of your lost loved one. Keeping family albums, photos of special times, and other memorandums are fine as long as you don’t let it make you too sad. Remember that your memories are something no one can ever take away from you. Some even “talk to” their lost loved ones in a spiritual way. As long as you are in touch with reality that they have passed on, this is perfectly fine.
- Talk to others about your grief. Other people do not understand exactly what you are going through. So you may need to ask for what you need from others.
- Children do not respond the way adults do. But this does not mean that you shouldn’t talk to them about the loss. It may involve their grandmother or uncle whom they loved. They need to be given a chance to grieve also, but in their way.
- The idea of “recovery” means different things to different people. Look for ways to make something good come out of the loss. Allow it to inspire you to draw closer to others, make new friends, or make an album of your memories on CD.
- Be patient with yourself. It takes time to survive the loss. Record your progress by keeping a journal.
How to Find a Professional Care Provider
It is important to find the best care that you can if you are caring for a loved one in need now. The following list of reminder may help.
- Know your needs: Before you make your first phone call, thoroughly consider what your care needs are. Think about whether you need help with providing hands-on care for yourself.
- Figure out what you need, such as a companion, assistance with cooking or housework, etc. Ask the agency what levels of care they have available. Find out if they are licensed for medical care as well as light housework and general caregiving. Find out if they are licensed, bonded, and insured to reduce your liability. Find out their policies on workers’ compensation and injuries if a home care worker is injured in your home.
- Check for relevant previous experience. Select an agency that has a record of excellence and which has had few or no legal actions taken against them. Make sure they have had extensive training.
- Check to see if the home care provider can provide what your loved one needs and not just basic things that anyone can do.
- Make connections. Most home care agencies allow you to interview caregivers yourself in your home to provide the opportunity to learn more about them. Do your homework and check up on anyone and ask questions to make sure they are reliable and trustworthy with your loved one. You have a right to do so. You are paying them.
Some Final Thoughts
We hope this guide will serve as an excellent resource that you can use on a regular basis and save on your computer for future use. We want you to have the best experience as possible as you care for your loved one in these challenging times.
At SIGMA Home Care, we truly care about you, as well as your loved one who is also struggling with daily living tasks. We can help when you feel overwhelmed and we offer respite care so that you can take some time for yourself, as well as home care services.
Remember you cannot control the illness that got you here. But you can control how you handle it by soliciting help from all of the resources you can. This will keep you healthier too, both physically and mentally, and allow you to be the best you can be for your special loved one.
For more information and resources in your area, including the possibility of family caregiver support groups, contact your local SIGMA Home Care office or call 800-673-0016.