Caregiving

Understanding and coping with challenges of being a caregiver.

Caregivers Resisting Help

Posted by on Jan 7, 2013 in Caregiving | 0 comments

Originally published January 2012 at www.kindethics.com. Reprinted with permission. I have never been very good at asking for help and, like many family caregivers, I didn’t think that my own needs mattered. Thinking I had to do everything all the time caused me to have two breakdowns; once during my early years of caregiving and again in the last year of my 17-year caregiving journey. I wish I had known about the following statistics from a recent MetLife Study: Family caregivers experiencing extreme stress have been shown to age prematurely and this level of stress can take as much as 10 years off a family caregiver’s life. 40% to 70% of family caregivers have clinically significant symptoms of depression with approximately 25%-50% of these caregivers meeting the diagnostic criteria for major depression. Stress of family caregiving for persons with dementia has been shown to impact a person’s immune system for up to three years after their caregiving ends thus increasing their chances of developing a chronic illness themselves. I don’t know which statistic frightens me the most. But I do know that I have paid an emotional, physical and financial cost for being a caregiver. (I also loved taking care of my family.) It didn’t have to be that way. I could have and should have asked for help. But I am a caregiver and when people told me, “Just make time for yourself,” it wasn’t that easy. If you think about who in a family becomes the caregiver, it will usually be the person who is more nurturing and generous with their time. So by nature, the caregiver is the type of person who already gives more than others. And this becomes a vicious cycle of give – give – give instead of give – receive – give – receive. I recently said to my friend who is an overwhelmed caregiver, “Maybe now is a good time for the rest of your family to learn what they need to do to help their grandfather.” What I heard back from her were lots of excuses: They don’t want to help They don’t know what to do They don’t know him like I do They will just make it worse I don’t have time to teach them It is just easier if I do it I get tired of asking I don’t think they would help, even if I asked Why should I have to ask, they should just know what to do I don’t want to be a bother It is too much effort to ask Sound familiar? I realized in that moment that it isn’t always that the family won’t help; it is the caregiver who is resisting asking for help. So let me ask you. If you had a broken shoulder, would it be okay to ask someone to carry your groceries to the car? If your car broke down, could you call for a tow truck? When your loved one needs help, don’t you get them the help you need? Then why don’t you deserve the same attention? Your needs matter and you deserve to have someone help you. Here’s my Four-Step Process, to help you identify what keeps you from asking for help and to overcome your reluctance. Step 1: I encourage you to explore what is keeping you from asking. Write down what goes through your head when someone says, “You should just ask for help.” What are your resistance statements? Step 2: Take your list of resistance statements and put a statement beside it to help you get past what has been preventing...

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Parents Who Won’t Accept Help

Posted by on Feb 7, 2012 in Caregiving, Family Relationships, Sensitive Conversations | 0 comments

Originally published at www.thestar.com on September 3, 2010. Seniors resist help at home Susan Pigg, Living Reporter More than half of seniors resist asking for help, even from their adult children, fearing it signals a neediness that could land them in a nursing home, a new study shows. That fierce resistance is playing out in so many family squabbles — from the silent treatment to bitter turf wars between aging parents and their grown kids — that the home-care agency Home Instead Senior Care has just launched a series of online self-help videos, one of them focusing on communication. “This is a big problem for family caregivers,” says Bruce Mahony, owner of Home Instead’s Toronto office. “If seniors admit they need help, they think their independence is in question. They worry about losing control of their affairs.” Fifty-one per cent of 24,147 adult caregivers surveyed across Canada and the U.S. by Home Instead Senior Care from 2004 to 2009 say their aging relatives can be so reluctant to accept help, they fear for their safety. Some worry their elderly parents are forgetting to eat meals or take medications in a misguided bid to maintain their independence. Others are managing to hobble along with considerable help from elderly partners who are getting sick struggling to keep up appearances that all is well, elder-care experts say. But a big part of the problem is baby boomer children who feel the overwhelming need to parent their parents, says Mara Osis, co-founder of Calgary-based ElderWise Inc. which offers “family coaching” and advice via the book Your Aging Parents: How to Prepare, How to Cope. “We stress that you are not your parents’ parent. You need to see each other as two adults of different generations trying to work out a problem,” says Osis. The struggles can be even more complicated if the parent is suffering from early dementia and feels confused and threatened by any changes or in-home help from strangers. “Boomers are used to being very much in control of everything in their lives and being able to effect change, so when they see that they are getting push back from their parents, it’s an unfamiliar role. “Sometimes the adult child creates their own problems by saying, ‘I’m just going to fix mom and dad and their situation because the solution is very simple from my point of view.’ ” Read the complete article   ...

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Recording a Life Story

Posted by on Feb 24, 2011 in Caregiving, Planning | 0 comments

This edition of Info is written by ElderWise co-founder, Mara Osis. It’s ironic that our curiosity and interest in the lives of the older generation often doesn’t take hold until that generation is gone. Or, we have a keen interest, but other responsibilities distract or prevent us from knowing our elders’ histories. My mom has always been keen to write down her story. For many years, I watched her begin her ‘life story’ project, only to abandon it after a few pages, saying that the writing “wasn’t good enough.” Fearing that if this went on much longer, we would run out of time, I took the following steps: •I began with getting her to see the project differently. I suggested it would be more interesting to read something in a spontaneous, un-edited voice, and that this would help communicate her authentic personality to future readers. •For further encouragement and guidance, I suggested some books, including: Saving Your Life, Glenys Stow, 2001, Ginger Press and How To Write Your Own Life Story, 4th ed., Lois Daniel, 1997, Chicago Review Press. •I bought several attractive, high quality lined journals, bound in such a way as to prevent pages being torn out. Buying several books allowed my mother to see her life as a series of chapters – childhood, wartime refugee, new immigrant, wife and mother, widow. To concentrate on one chapter at a time broke the project into manageable pieces. My mother was lucky to be in touch with friends of her childhood and youth. Reconnecting with them brought other stories to mind and fleshed out details she had forgotten. Mom hasn’t completed her project yet, but she has so far filled three books and has recorded events to the time of my birth. Encouraging your family’s elders to set down life stories can provide purpose, structure and diversion during times of stress, low mobility or convalescence. It may also encourage re-connection with pleasant memories and old friends. It certainly provides a cherished, permanent record for future generations. Vol.2, No.6; © ElderWise Inc. 2006 You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO articles, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise Inc., Canada’s go-to place for “age-smart” planning. Visit us at www.elderwise.ca and subscribe to our FREE newsletter....

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Why Geriatrics and Gerontology Matter

Posted by on Feb 24, 2011 in Caregiving, Health Care Team and System | 0 comments

Aging is complex – and unique to each individual. When older adults experience acute illness, they need – and deserve – specialized care. Health professionals specialized in Geriatrics or Gerontology have the expertise to recognize normal aging, identify common diseases of old age and provide holistic care. The term “Geriatric” refers to the study, diagnosis and treatment of common diseases associated with aging. The term “Gerontology” is derived from Greek, and means “the study of elders”. Gerontology is multidisciplinary and therefore looks at physical, mental and social aspects of a senior’s life.  Why know these terms? There are a variety of practitioners in your community. Knowing how to find those with specialized knowledge and expertise will help you or a senior family member get the best possible care. In hospital: A geriatrician is as important to an older adult as a pediatrician is to a child! So ask for a geriatrician – a physician who can work with the health care team to determine an appropriate plan of care. Geriatricians have been certified in Canada since 1981. For more information, visit their website: http://canadiangeriatrics.com/ In a long-term care facility: Ask for a Certified Gerontological Nurse. These nurses have written national certification exams to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. Their education makes them exemplary problem-solvers. As part of the health care team, their focus includes avoiding the dangers of over-treating as well as under- treating chronic and acute health problems in older adults. In the community: If a senior is still healthy and wants to stay that way as long as possible, look for a Geriatric or Gerontological Nurse Practitioner. Contact your local health authority or the provincial nursing association to locate resources near you. For more information, visit the Canadian Gerontological Nurses Association website: http://cgna.net/ Vol.2, No.9; © ElderWise Inc. 2005 You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO articles, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise Inc., Canada’s go-to place for “age-smart” planning. Visit us at www.elderwise.ca and subscribe to our...

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Help for Caregivers

Posted by on Sep 9, 2010 in Caregiving, Catalog, Family Relationships | 0 comments

Millions of Canadians are caregivers to a family member. Many caregivers say they want and need help but don’t know where to get it or how to ask. Without that help, caregivers are at risk for physical and emotional burnout.  Before asking for help, assess the specific needs. They may include: respite so you can take a vacation support to make important decisions regular phone calls/visits to you or to the care recipient financial help – or help to manage finances hands-on help with care household chores Some caregivers report “rejection” when asking for help. If other family members don’t pitch in, it may be that they don’t agree with the “needs”. If you believe that Dad should never be left alone and your brother thinks you are being over-protective, you aren’t likely to get cooperation. Explore or anticipate other family member’s beliefs about the tasks of caregiving before asking for help.  Here are five more strategies for overwhelmed caregivers:  Look beyond siblings – younger aunts and uncles, cousins, grandchildren and nieces and nephews may be willing to help. Start with a family meeting – face to face or telephone conference call. Without phrasing it as a demand, outline your list of needs, then ask open ended questions to find out which of these needs can be met by others. Talk to family members.  Again, begin with a list. Consider what you can do to build or strengthen these relationships, and what you might do in return, particularly if you are caring from a distance. When making long-distance visits, take some time to get acquainted with your parents’ friends and neighbours, who may act as another set of eyes and ears for you. Reach out to the community. If your family belongs to a church, ask about assistance programs such as companionship, visiting, and transportation. Contact your local seniors’ centre and ask about community outreach programs. Hire help, if you can. Many private companies provide help for caregivers. Search on line or in advertisements aimed at seniors. Explore cost sharing with family members. This may allow the caregiver to use their time and energy most appropriately. Manage your emotions.   Sometimes our emotions and beliefs get in the way of asking for help. Do you think you might be seen as demanding or incompetent? Does your family member say that you are the only one that can take care of them? Does that create pressure or resentment?  Caregiver burnout is a serious consequence of trying to do too much for too long on your own. You can learn more about this issue in our ElderWise Guide: Caregiver Burnout: How to spot it. How to stop it. If you notice that your beliefs may be preventing you from taking care of yourself, consider talking to a medical professional, counselor or an ElderWise coach.   Vol.6, No.5 © ElderWise Inc., 2010 You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise, Canada’s go-to place for “age-smart” planning. Visit us at http://elderwise.memwebs.com/ and subscribe to our FREE...

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Older Caregivers Face Extra Risk

Posted by on Sep 8, 2010 in Caregiving, Health Signals | 0 comments

Expecting to “take it easy” in your senior years? According to 2007 figures from Statistics Canada, at least 675,000 Canadian seniors have had to curtail travel, leisure and personal interests – and have put themselves at risk for physical and emotional problems – because they are providing care to another elderly person. They could be looking after close friends (30%), spouses (23%), neighbours (15%) – even parents (9%).  One third of these seniors are over the age of 75. Fewer than one in five older caregivers gets a break from these responsibilities. Without help from family, community or private services, caregiver burnout – physical and emotional exhaustion due to prolonged high levels of stress – is almost inevitable. Not only can physical health problems multiply, but mental health issues, such as feeling powerless, resentful, and isolated, can compromise a caregiver’s well-being. Most of these seniors may not think of themselves as caregivers, but that’s exactly what they become when they take responsibility to help others with their daily needs. Caregivers are from all walks of life and income levels. They are predominantly female but increasing numbers of men are taking on the role. But what they often share in common is stepping unaware and unprepared into a demanding role.  Caregiving responsibilities can occur suddenly, but they typically become long term (chronic), and they don’t always have a happy outcome. Responsibilities can continue even when the person receiving the care moves from a private home to an institution. Older caregivers are up against more challenges than their younger counterparts. They are unlikely to have the strength and energy of a younger person. Older caregivers may have to manage their own chronic health problems (e.g., high blood pressure, diabetes or arthritis) while caring for another. Doing yard work, shoveling snow, or going up and down the stairs with the laundry basket may be more than they can handle. Other caregiver duties can be mentally demanding. Managing finances, scheduling appointments, and other household decisions take more time and energy as you age. Conflicting emotions can drain energy as well, particularly when the personal relationships between caregiver and care recipient are strained.  Caregiving for a spouse can be especially demanding. The marital relationship is more intense, private and personal than many. A spouse’s illness results in greater stress, yet spouses are less likely to ask for help from others. Often, there’s a belief that what is happening should be kept private. Without greater awareness, understanding and action, more seniors will run the risk of burnout, which can lead to physical and mental collapse. Older caregivers face extra risk, and that has significant implications for families, communities and our health care system. For more insight on this topic, purchase our downloadable e-publication: Caregiver Burnout – How To Spot It, How To Stop It Vol. 5, No. 6 © ElderWise Publishing 2009. You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise, Canada’s go-to place for “age-smart” planning. Visit us at http://elderwise.memwebs.com/ and subscribe to our FREE...

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