Caregiver concerns: We examine prompt, likely, logical solutions
Caregivers have many concerns. What are the top caregiver concerns? What do caregivers need the most to help make their jobs easier and less stressful?
Caregiving provides many advantages, such as spending time with elders, serving someone who needs you, learning about other times and places. It is a never ending flow of gifts that elders bestow. However, caregivers know there are always obstacles ahead and caregiver assistance is something that we address here. Following are some of the top concerns caregivers have, along with some general and specific solutions that can be worked into a caregiving structure.
Concern #1: The unexpected
Caregiving is not a pre-planned situation with rehearsals that tell what to do and when. It can be full of surprises – good and bad. If that situation keeps you up at night, plan ahead when possible. It is not surprising that this is one of the top caregiver concerns.
Solution: Plan ahead and ask, “what if?”
Even the best caregivers cannot plan for everything. However, considering likely options and possible solutions help lower stress levels while you care for a senior. If possible, sit with other persons on the caregiving team–caregivers, family members, friends or neighbors–and list the likely obstacles. For example, if the senior in your senior has diabetes, they might develop diabetic retinopathy, which affects their vision. Make a plan to get the person’s vision checked regularly, learn the signs of vision loss, and do your best to fall-proof the living space. This means that you can identify and treat symptoms earlier and possibly prevent injury before there is an official diagnosis in hand.
Other medical situations also merit pre-planning. If the senior has a family history of dementia (or hearing loss, which has also been linked to dementia), plan a screening regularly, know the symptoms, and offer plenty of intellectual stimulation to help prevent cognitive decline. Know what doctor they might see if they develop symptoms of cognitive decline and call the insurance company to assure they are covered, for example, for a visit to a specialist if they need it.
Ensure that the senior in your care has a plan for the saddest eventuality of caring for seniors–their passing. Encouraging them to see a lawyer and write a will, and to keep the will up-to-date with their wishes, will help in the difficult time after they are gone. The more specific the will is, the less confusion there will be about what they would want. For example, do they wish to be an organ donor? Do they wish to be buried and, if so, where? Donating a body to science generally takes time and money, but is worthwhile for those interested in advancing medical science. Talk to local medical schools and research facilities about what that involves. All this requires conversations, sometimes emotional, but it is much better than wondering what to do after they have gone.
Concern #2: Stress
Stress causes a variety of symptoms and is one of the top caregiver concerns. Depending on your physiology and mental health, stress can roll off your back or cause serious consequences. Since most caregivers put their hearts and souls into their work and frequently have other responsibilities outside of caregiving, including another job, children, or volunteer work, they regularly experience stress. If you are experiencing stress or you read this and want to plan for future stress, check in with yourself.
Solution: Check in with yourself
From the time you become a caregiver, keep a record of your physical and mental wellness. This includes getting regular physical exams, so a doctor can monitor increased blood pressure or strained muscles from stress, or keeping a daily or periodic journal. Mindfulness practices are useful, asking you to physically check how stress affects your body and acknowledge how mental or emotional stress manifests itself in your life. Whether or not you write down the answers, ask yourself a few simple questions:
- How do I feel today?
- How am I used to feeling?
- What is my body doing today that might be painful or unusual?
- How should I remedy that pain or discomfort?
- What three things can I do today to reduce stress for tomorrow?
Checking in thoroughly and making action plans hold you accountable to yourself. It also gives you something to look forward to. If you make tomorrow easier, you can wake up knowing that day will pass more easily than yesterday. This feeling of small improvements help break the monotony and stress of caregiving.
Concern #3: Loneliness
One of the most overlooked caregiver concerns is loneliness. Sometimes caregivers don’t know how to understand this feeling. Caregivers often work alone on day-to-day tasks. Even if you form part of a larger facility, you can spend a lot of time alone with seniors who are not at their happiest. This can lead to feelings of loneliness, sadness, and frustration. Getting bogged down in the everyday struggles of caregiving can lead to the feeling that life is monotonous and stressful. That does not have to be the case. Finding ways to incorporate others into caregiving allows you to keep life engaging and stimulating for you and the senior in your care.
Solution: Form a team
Although many caregiving tasks are performed by just you and the senior, you are not alone in your caregiving work. Consider several options for the team members who work together to care for one senior:
- Healthcare professionals, such as doctors, nurses or professional caregivers
- Family members
- The senior’s friends and neighbors, as well as others in the community (church members, local senior groups, community service organizations)
- The senior themselves
Seniors in need of caregiving should always be considered part of their own caregiving team. Giving them as much healthy and safe responsibility empowers them and takes stress from you. This leaves you time to know them better and ask questions about their life. This bonding time staves off loneliness for both of you. Involving others in their care gives both of you a chance to be social, to have experiences worth discussing and see just how much support you have each day.
If you have some ideas of your own on caregiver concerns, please share them in the comments.
American Psychological Association. Top Concerns. Common Caregiving Problems. APA.org. Available at http://www.apa.org/pi/about/publications/caregivers/practice-settings/common-problems/. Retrieved February 26, 2017.
Family Caregiver Alliance. Caregiving Issues and Strategies. Caregiver.org. Available at https://www.caregiver.org/caregiving-issues-and-strategies. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
Schneider, April, and Steve Pacicco. Experts Share a Caregiver’s Top Concerns and Solutions. Future of Personal Health. Available at http://www.futureofpersonalhealth.com/prevention-and-treatment/experts-share-a-caregivers-top-concerns-and-solutions. Retrieved February 25, 2017.
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