by Dedra Jize, OT., CSA
Geriatric Care Manager, Litherland, Kennedy & Associates, APC, Attorneys at Law
Caregiving is not a new concept. It began thousands of years ago when the first parent took care of their first child; and yet, here we are still talking about it. In this article, I am not going to talk about parenting; but rather, caregiving for an elderly person, whether you are the spouse, the adult child or some other family or friend. The role of a caregiver greatly varies depending on the diagnosis and situation; but in any case, it can be both very rewarding and very challenging. So, how does a caregiver best cope in their role?
Do not forget about yourself, you need to be cared for too. Eat a healthy diet, get exercise, meet with friends, and do things you enjoy. There needs to be a time of rejuvenation, a time to refill your tank emotionally, psychologically, and physically. However, I often hear, “How can I do any of that when I am so busy with all my responsibilities as a caregiver, a spouse, a parent, an employee and so on…there is no time for me!” This is where adapting to the role is important. You need to plan for self-care and rely on others for help and support. Call on others to help you and be specific like “Can you bring dinner over to us once a month?” or “Can you come over here to visit me because it is hard for me to get out?” or “Can you stay with my parent for a few hours this week?” It is important that you do not rely on ‘self- medicating’ such as alcohol, over-the-counter sleeping aides or cannabis. It really does not address any issue; it just hides it for a short period of time, only to show up again. If there are financial resources to help pay for care, use them. Unfortunately, often people do not feel this is a prudent way to use funds because they feel it is selfish. Lastly, enjoy a good laugh. To have a sense of humor about daily events will help carry you through the difficult times. Although something may not be funny at the time, look back and try to find the humor. I remember a wife who cared for her husband with Alzheimer’s telling me about how she woke up in the morning to find the bathroom and hallway flooded with water. Upon investigation, she found that her husband had been up in the middle of the night to fix the pipes, disconnected the water line and then went back to bed. At that moment, horrible; but weeks later, funny to her as she saw the humor of her husband who was previously a plumber, trying to work his trade, albeit wrong.
What can you do now, as a caregiver, to help you cope better? Find time for yourself, ask for help, practice patience, develop a new perspective on the situation, use resources available to you and learn to see the humor when possible in the numerous situations that arise. You can also reach out to me, a Geriatric Care Manager in the office and we together can develop a plan that works for everyone. Whatever it is, remember that your presence to the person you care for is much more important than anything you actually do.