Many caregivers understand the importance of caring for themselves and, yet, in another breath, say things like, “I feel overwhelmed,” “I’m stressed out,” “I’m too busy to eat, let alone find time to stay healthy,” and “There are so many things to do, how do I make time for myself?” [Read more…]
By Wendy Johnstone
“New to the caregiver support group, I was so nervous and skeptical about attending. My doctor suggested I give it a try. They were all strangers to me; I wasn’t sure if I wanted to open up about my wife’s disease. As I walked to my car after the meeting, I felt a big weight lifted from my shoulders. The difference: even though my role as a caregiver was unchanged; I knew I wasn’t alone anymore. I came as a stranger, but I left feeling like I was part of a family.” [Read more…]
By Wendy Johnstone
It’s that time again – summer holidays – and for myself that means a week long cycling trip in Oregon to recharge my batteries.
Yes, this week’s column on caregivers taking holidays is a bit of a “re-run” from last summer. In my defense, I would argue some information is worth repeating annually!
The timing for this column couldn’t be better. We have had several calls from caregivers wanting to take a few weekends away or in one case a three week trip out of the country. There is a great deal of stress for both the caregivers and the person they are caring for.
There are legitimate concerns and worries such as, “Who will look after my Dad overnight?”; “It’s going to cost money”; “My husband has dementia and doesn’t want anyone else to care for her but me.”
Taking a break is really important for caregivers. Without enough time away from caregiving duties, feelings of resentment and burnout may present themselves more readily. Being able to trust someone else to take care of the person you are caring for or gaining clearer insight to the situation at hand and reconnecting with yourself and your family are just a few ways caregivers can benefit from a holiday.
Here are some tips to make going on vacation a little easier:
Clone yourself: OK, maybe not literally but do find a replacement caregiver or a network of support. It might be family or friends or you may decide to hire someone. It all depends on how much help and care is needed as well as the length of time away and financial resources available.
Schedule time for the caregiver to meet wtih the person being cared for prior to leaving. This provides an opportunity to increase comfort levels about you leaving and gives the caregiver additional comfort with the daily or weekly routine.
Checklists: It’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared! Having detailed instructions for the caregiver will help ease your mind while you are away. Ask the care recipient to help you with it.
Financial matters: Make sure all bills are pre-paid and that cash can be accessed easily to meet expenses or emergency expenditures.
Emergency contact: Keep a list of emergency telephone numbers and places of where you are staying with the caregiver and another trusted source. It’s not a bad idea to call your aging loved one’s doctor, case manager or if they are in care the head nurse prior to leaving and let them know you will be travelling and how they can reach you in an emergency.
Emergency plan: Talking about what needs to be done in a medical emergency such as a stroke or broken hip is important. A signed health care proxy or representation agreement should be in place and its whereabouts known.
Start early: Yes, that seems obvious! However, trips can sneak up on us quickly. We suggest to families to give themselves at least 3-4 months to plan for respite or to organize care, especially for the first time through.
Don’t spend every day feeling guilty about being away! Enjoy yourself knowing that you’ve planned ahead and the person you are caring for is in good hands.
And with that, I bid you adieu!
You have a looming deadline at work and your mother is calling because your father has fallen yet again. You are notified by your mother’s housing provider to find immediate overnight care due to your mother’s dementia and wandering at night. When you arrive late for work after taking your dad to his medical appointment, your supervisor immediately calls you into her office.
Almost 28 per cent of Canadians combine paid work and caregiving. The majority of caregivers experience wonderful feelings of fulfillment by giving back to the person they are caring for and enjoy strengthened family relations. The strains of caregiving, however, take their toll: A quarter of caregivers report a change in employment including turning down training opportunities or promotions, taking a loss of income, or simply having to quit their jobs. Almost 15 per cent report health and sleep problems and over a third report emotional difficulties due to caregiving.
Balancing caregiving and work situations vary tremendously and no single action plan works for everyone. Here are a few strategies to lighten your load and reduce stress:
Be honest and proactive. Describe the situation to your employer before it becomes a problem and let them know you are committed to your job. Be honest with yourself. Don’t sugarcoat the situation. It won’t help you in the long run and will cause additional stress.
Recognize signs of stress. Listen to your body – don’t wait until the physical or emotional consequences of stress negatively impact you. Identify one way you can support yourself with stress or consider professional help, if you feel overwhelmed.
Learn about available supports. Can you work flexible hours? Do you have someone who can cover for you if you need to leave the office? Does your employer know about your eldercare situation? Are you comfortable talking to your direct superior or colleagues about your eldercare situation? What policies does your company have in place to support working caregivers?
Document, document, document. Create a file and keep track of documents and information on your caregiving situation. Such documentation serves as a valuable reference when dealing with your employer, colleagues, doctors and others involved in the care of your loved one.
Make your time your own. The people we are caring for may get into the habit of calling for every little thing, or simply because they are lonely. Set boundaries and schedule regular times when you will call or check in. Be present and learn to compartmentalize – “work when you work,” “give care when you are cargiving,” and “play when you play.”
My Dad is 95 years old and honestly, some days I can’t believe he is still alive. I’m his only daughter and caregiver. I’ve been looking after him for 4 years now. In those years, we’ve had pneumonia, a broken hip and a stroke. What I’ve really learned is there are always unexpected challenges. I kept thinking that if we got over the bump in the road, the caregiving would get easier, until I figured out that there would always be another bump in the road.”
Caregiving isn’t easy. Some days it might feel like boot camp. Other days, you expect things to be hard and you breeze right through them. The bottom line: caregiving is unique to all families. It’s likely that you’ll experience changes in your relationships with spouses/partners siblings, children, and mostly, the person you’re caring for. You can also expect some strong feelings to surface. Mostly, caregivers are surprised by the number of challenges they face or ones they didn’t expect. [Read more…]