The following list contains suggestions for caregivers. Caregivers are often overwhelmed and don't recognize how easy it is to make minor changes that can help their loved one be more comfortable, while easing the caregiving experience.
- Talk to your employer. Caregivers should let their managers know that they are caring for a loved one and discuss their needs related to caregiving. Make it known that you are committed to your job and want to find ways to remain productive. There may be options, such as different work hours or the ability to work from home.
- Know your rights. Consult human resources about what you are entitled to under the law. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires large employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off with job protection when workers must care for a sick or injured parent.
- Know your limits. When you are juggling caregiving and working, stress can come from everywhere. Identify what specific task, attitude or amount of work overwhelms you. This will help you know where to ask for help.
- Forgive yourself for any bad days and give yourself a fresh start the next day. Understand that you are not going to be able to do everything, or solve every problem. Remember everything you do right and learn from your mistakes.
- Understand visual limitations. With age and serious illness, it is common for someone's vision to change. Recognize that it may take longer for your loved one to adjust to different lighting or recognize something. Keep in mind that visual impairment and falling have also been linked. Reduce fall risks and give your loved one time to see and recognize objects. Hold things directly in front of your loved one, his or her peripheral vision may be impaired.
- Manage medications. People with serious illness and the elderly often take many medications. Talk with your doctor to ensure that all medications are managed and they are not mixing to cause unwanted symptoms. It is possible that your loved one's change in behavior or emotion is due to medications.
- Involve your loved one. Sometimes, your loved one might exhibit difficult behaviors because he or she is bored. Seniors or the seriously ill may not have the stamina for long trips but they may enjoy going out for an hour or two. A simple trip to the grocery story - colorful flowers, fresh produce, bakery smells, energetic families - might engage and excite your loved one. Keep in mind that this really depends on the person's condition and what they feel up for.
- Develop ritual caregiving techniques. Caregiving tasks, such as helping your loved one in and out of bed, should be ritualized. Establishing rituals that you and your loved one can follow will ensure the best possible care. It will also help your loved one know what to expect and how something is going to happen. Visit the resource section of our website for how to caregiving videos.
- Create an atmosphere comfortable for your loved one. Often times, the person with a serious illness has a bed in the family's living room, or a room on the first floor, near a bathroom. While this may be ideal for helping someone move about, it can be very distressing for your loved on. Keep in mind that your loved one may not sleep well if there is noise around him or her, if the television runs continuously or if someone is talking. Make sure your loved one is in a place where he or she can keep his or her dignity and have some quiet.
- Understand the difference between listening and talking. Take the time to really listen to your loved one. What does he or she want? If you are doing all the talking, you are not uncovering his or her real needs or desires.
This blog entry was written by Jaclyn Klein, Arbor Hospice Communications Specialist from feedback from Arbor Hospice nurses and social workers. You may contact Jaclyn by commenting below or emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.