What does it really mean to have a guide through this journey, a trusted resource when caring for an aging parent or spouse? Nancy Stein shared with us her experiences with caring for her father and the need she had to get help from someone who not only knew the ropes when it comes to developing a plan but was able to pinpoint the resources to best support her and her father!
Nancy: I was a caregiver twice for a period of time that covered over 10 years. My parents had very different needs from one another, but the one thing that they had in common was that they lived in California while I lived in Miami. I was working full time I had my own family. And while I had siblings, and yes we all conferred with one another, I always felt like this huge responsibility on my shoulders.
For me being a caregiver was an incredibly isolating experience, a really lonely journey. I felt very much alone. I felt like I spent all this time figuring out what it was I needed to do, and how I would get the help, and then I realized in fact that I wasn’t really right. And I essentially just kept going from crisis to crisis. I guess hindsight’s really wonderful. Now I know that just about everyone’s going to be a caregiver at some point and to some degree. And no matter what it is it’s really never going to be easy.
I had known that this was the case and that I could have had someone to turn to for guidance. It sounds very simple but it’s really not. Having a trusted resource at that time would have made all the difference to me. And if it were a perfect world that person might have been my father’s doctor.
I wish she had told me that my father’s behaviors were a direct result of his dementia. Maybe I wouldn’t have been as angry and as frustrated as much of the time. Or that maybe his behaviors were because he was taking medications that didn’t agree with him. Or maybe I wouldn’t have yelled at him for shuffling his feet and being lazy, if I had of known that that was like the symptom of dementia.
I wish I would have known that a good eldercare manager could have directed me to resources that were close by and my dad might have been able to be more engaged socially, and someone who would have helped me to make sure he had the best appropriate services, rather than doing everything by trial and error.
I must have gone through four different home healthcare agencies and if I had just understood what it was that I had needed I would have probably done it right the first time. I would not have tried to do it all alone I would have been able to anticipate what was coming ahead and not feel like I was in the crisis mode. Along with caring for my own family and working full time I found that it was just a recipe for burnout.
Eventually I did employ a geriatric care manager, which was smartest thing I could have done. And that person really helped me. She evaluated my father, helped me to create a strategy, and to become very organized.
She would email me and what her observations were, and what she thought I should be doing next. It allowed me to focus more on my relationship with my dad.
Practical Tips to Organization
There is so much value to having a care manager step in and help you to become organized and prepared in your role as a caregiver. They are able to carefully evaluate your needs and your aging family member’s needs. More importantly they know about resources that you don’t know about.
When you add the additional role of caregiver for an elderly family member it often affects your own physical and emotional health. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Being prepared early on in the role of caregiver will give you an edge by savinh you time, energy, undue stress, and money. It can be difficult to keep track of all of the information as a caregiver but the consequences of not doing so come at a high cost to all involved.
The following list will help to free you from the anxiety and overwhelm of caregiving:
1. Have a strategic plan by having an evaluation done of your loved one’s living situation, their abilities, and home safety. They can put a plan together that is specific to your loved one’s needs and help you to put it into action.
2. Develop a system by keeping paperwork regarding your loved one in one place. Establish a spot in your home to keep all information concerning the health and well being of your loved one in one place.
3. Keep it Portable by setting up a binder with tabbed subjects of important information such as doctors, insurance policies, VA benefit information, other service providers, financial, legal, pharmacy, and medications.
4. Get in the habit of updating the records after every visit to the doctor or trip to the pharmacy. Elderly individuals often have multiple doctors who may each prescribe different medications. Its important for all doctors to know what medications your loved one is taking so that they are able to pay attention to drug interactions.
5. A Caregiver Journal for all in home professional caregivers, or other family members who take care of your loved one will help to keep an accounting of how the care receiver is doing, how the day went and anything that should be taken into consideration or important observations.
6. Keep a notebook nearby to record necessary information when communicating on the phone.
7. On the refrigerator keep a list of frequently called phone numbers handy, as well as a grocery pad checklist to make shopping easy.
8. Use a calendar to keep track of appointments, including respite care. If you have siblings consider using an online calendar such as a Google calendar so that everyone is in the loop. It makes scheduling who is going to help easier.
Being organized involves an initial time commitment but once you have it in place it is much easier to navigate the system of changing eldercare needs.
If you would like to talk to Lisa about becoming empowered for caring for an aging parent or loved one without as much stress and overwhelm, contact her for a complimentary caregiving coaching session HERE or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org