By Annette Sandler • JFCS Aging Services Director
JFCS Senior Services Caregiver Coaches work directly with family members to guide them in making changes to improve life at home. This includes an in-home assessment, comprehensive report and care plan, caregiver education and behavior/communication analysis and training. Coaches help coordinate services to benefit the person living with dementia and assist the caregiver in promoting better self-care.
In addition, we offer Care Planning Consultations to help when families notice changes in parents and/or spouses, including increased forgetfulness; withdrawal from social activities; decreased confidence or ability in driving; becoming overwhelmed by normal tasks; or other changes. Before a crisis arises, Care Planning Consultation helps families articulate issues and challenges, learn about available resources, create a plan for maximizing independence and more. Click here for more information on these services.
Being a caregiver for a family member or friend who is ill can be emotionally charged and sometimes frustrating. It’s important to remember that you cannot control the disease process, but can control many aspects of how it affects you and your loved one.
The American Journal of Alzheimer’s Care and Related Disorders and Research at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago recommends these steps:
- Take care of yourself so you can continue doing the things that are important
- Simplify your lifestyle so that your time and energy are available for things that are important
- Cultivate the gift of allowing others to help you – caring for a person is too big a job for one person
- Take one day at a time, rather than worry about what may happen in the future
- Structure your day, because a consistent schedule makes life easier
- Remember your loved one is not being “difficult” on purpose – rather his/her behavior and emotions are distorted by the illness
- Focus on and enjoy what your relative can still do rather than constantly lament over what is gone
- Increasingly depend on other relationships for love and support
- Have a sense of humor, because laugher helps to put things in a more positive perspective. According to James R. Sherman, PhD, in his book the “Magic of Humor in Caregiving,” laughter can release tension, alleviate stress and offer a defense against depression. It can also help to restore hope and energy needed to survive the realities of a long-term illness.
- Most important, frequently remind yourself that you are doing the best you can at this very moment
As a caregiver, it is important to learn as much as possible about the disease of your loved one. Ask your doctor if there is a professional group like the Alzheimer’s Association or the Parkinson’s Association, where you can find information. This will help you to plan for the future.
Caregiving is a family affair – you cannot go it alone. Asking for help is one of the most important things you can do for both yourself and your loved one. Support helps produce a stronger caregiver capable of providing high quality care.
Building your team
As a caregiver, you need to build your support team. To do this, create two lists. On one list, write down what your loved ones needs. On a second list, write down what you need as a caregiver. Build a team that supports both. According to AARP, you must establish clear roles of what each team member will be responsible for. This should prevent one person from bearing the bulk of the burden and it should eliminate the resentment that can happen when one person feels they have to “do it all.” JFCS can provide families with a Care Planning Consultation to help articulate caregiver issues and determine the division of labor. We can also help facilitate the conversation between caregivers and care recipients.
Be specific when asking family, friends and neighbors for help so they know the best way to lend a hand. Trust that those you ask for help will respond and accept gracefully from those who offer.
Family – who are the family members that can help and how to divide the responsibilities?
For example, one person responsible for groceries, one for doctor visits, one for household finance, etc.
Other support – who else is part of the team? Friends, extended family, your faith community? Find out what they can do or would be willing to do.
Professional assistance – do you need service providers like Meals on Wheels, transportation, caregiver coaches or others?
One of the most important things to know is that caregiving can be emotionally exhausting. People tend to forget about their own needs, which is why caregivers are more likely to report high stress levels, depression and other health problems. Take time out. Don’t neglect exercise, sleep, healthy eating and activities that bring you pleasure.
For more information on JFCS Aging Services, call us at 952-546-0616.