Posts Tagged ‘caregiver support’

Self-Care

If you’re a caregiver, it’s important to take care of yourself, in addition to the one in your care. If you don’t, some day, someone will be taking care of you!

bottle

Definition of a word
Self-care
The care of oneself without medical or professional assistance or oversight from anyone else.

Question of the month
I live hundreds of miles from my grandmother, but visit at least once a year and I’ve noticed she seems to be declining more each time I visit. I think she’s thinner and I don’t think she can take care of herself properly. Should I mention this to my parents or aunts who live closer and check on her more than I can?

You owe it to your grandmother to tell those in a position to do something. Tell your parents your concerns, but don’t say just that you are worried about Nana. Give specific reasons for your alarm and be prepared to meet resistance from them or their siblings who may not be ready to acknowledge their mother needs assistance. It’s natural to delay discussing this subject and because they see her more often than you, it’s easy to overlook her gradual decline. Make a list of exactly what you have noticed changing from year to year and have some suggestions ready for intervention, including how you can help. With your grandmother’s permission, ask the entire family to pay to hire a housekeeper who also cooks and acts as companion. Including the whole family gives everyone a sense of control and your grandmother’s condition could improve.
nana
Caregiver Resource
CareNotes.com prints helpful brochures that are offered free in hospital or hospice chapels and other healthcare facilities. Caring for Yourself when You’re Caring for Someone Ill is only six pages, but covers the subject of self-care thoroughly. CareNotes  publications cover hundreds of topics and can be purchased individually or in bulk.

Hot Topic
Properly administered self-care
How you choose to provide self-care will depend on your particular personality, needs and your support team.

  • At the very least, learn to pace yourself and realize that relinquishing care to another family member or professional for a few hours is not selfish; it’s vital in the long run.
  • Recognize your own strengths and accept that you may need to call on outside sources to fill in some gaps. It is a sign of strength to request  help.
  • Find someone you can trust when you need to talk and don’t be embarrassed to discuss your negative feelings.
  • Be sure to include someone who will help you laugh.

Bongos Mary

Nurture your body with good nutrition and exercise, because if you don’t care for yourself, you cannot care for anyone else.

Fruits and Veggies

Feed your spirit, too. You may need to start by writing a wish list of things you want to do, events you hope to attend, places you’d like to visit when your caregiving tour comes to an end, and remember, it will come to an end.

Heron at Viera Wetlands1

Stress Relief Tips
Recognize your own needs before you offer to provide care for someone else. According to the staff of Kairos Support for Caregivers, caregivers fall into two categories:

  • those who act out of pity and ignore their own needs
  • those who act out of compassion and recognize the importance of caring for themselves as well.

Learn to recognize signs of caregiving stress and act to provide the best self-care possible.

first aid center

 

 

 

 

 

Where is my Oxygen Mask?

sparkly shoes

Many years ago, while visiting my sister who lives in Mississippi, I learned my siblings had called me Goody-two-shoes when we were youngsters. Even I’ll admit I don’t care to get my hands dirty – literally or figuratively. No wonder they were all surprised I took on the role as my mother’s housekeeper, managing activities for her, guarding her nutritional needs and serving as her live-in companion. It’s not a job for the squeamish or a compulsive cleaner, though some days, the compulsion to sanitize everything in the house seems logical.

Dog's bathroom

Not long after my husband and I moved in with my mother, another sister told me, “We all know you’re in charge there. You’ve been pissing on all the trees.”

Her comment hit me hard in the command center of my ego. If I’m in charge, why do I feel helpless? Why do I feel “damned if I do and damned if I don’t” about so many things?

Military uniforms

Flight attendants on commercial airplanes tell passengers “Take your own oxygen first.” You cannot help anyone if you are in distress.

Care for you, too

 

Take Your Oxygen First – Protecting Your Health and Happiness While Caring for a Loved One with Memory Loss is a book that addresses the need for caregivers to make taking care of themselves a priority. Written by geriatrician Rosemary Laird, celebrity Leeza Gibbons and licensed clinical social worker and psychiatrist James Huysman, the book combines advice for caregivers with information and a candid snapshot of the Gibbons’ family’s experience with Alzheimer’s disease.

take a break

As so many support groups, Take Your Oxygen First stresses the need for frequent, planned breaks from caregiving, but It’s hard to take a break when one of the reasons I became her HANC was because everyone else in the family has hands-on jobs they cannot perform remotely. I know a caregiver must take care of the caregiver or everyone suffers. Still, I feel guilty when I plan time away from my mother, thinking her needs must take priority over mine.

When my mother says, “I know you don’t need my help, but I need your company,” I know the decision to move – when we did – was right.

Angry boy

Some have told me how wonderful and selfless I am for being a HANC. I don’t feel wonderful. I feel tired, frustrated and angry. Selfish for wanting time to myself – my own oxygen, I chastise myself for becoming angry.

movie poster

There is no magic pill for memory loss, no way to undo her physical disability. She is as she is. What frustrates me is a condition that has plagued her since birth. She’s always – always – always had a problem most people don’t discuss, except with their doctors.

constipation

Well, dammit! I am in charge here and this is my territory. I have a point to make, in my goody-two-shoes superior way, so I’m going to fix her all by myself! How hard can that be? Constipation has been her nature for 86 years. Surely, I can change her nature. By golly, if I can’t!

pretty two shoes

I did, for a short while.

wine glass of juice

We had a custom where we talked in the kitchen while I made wholesome, fresh juice from all the vegetables and fruits and berries we both enjoyed – and a few we weren’t fond of – mixed with the tastier ones. I served it in martini glasses and wine glasses and teacups and coffee mugs and jelly jars. Together, we drank to our healthy digestive systems.

sick dog

After a couple of months, she became very ill. Her body missed the chemical compounds it had become dependant upon, despite of the cleansing effect of the juice. Within a few weeks of her illness, we resumed our regular routines, but a month later, she was sick again. The next time her malady struck, she became dehydrated and needed hospitalization.

That’s when I learned.

fresh vegetables and fruit

Despite my attempts at tasty, nutritious meals and that healthy morning drink, her body needs additional help. Too much raw fiber causes gas; not enough causes blockage. Too much pulpy juice actually slows down her digestive system. A better option for her is cooked, fibrous vegetables, fruits and some fresh berries – when she agrees to eat them. Hydration becomes so much more important as we age, especially when we can’t remember how much or when we last drank.

soda

I worry about keeping her hydrated when the last thing she wants is to drink. Recently, after encouraging her to drink ginger ale – anything – and after tending to her needs during a quarterly bout of digestive distress, my husband reminded me that I had not eaten all day.

mask decor

Now, where did I put my oxygen mask?

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