As a family caregiver, you play a vitally important role in the life of your aging loved one – a role that while rewarding, can also be overwhelming and exhausting at times.
While families find many different ways to be successful caregivers, we checked in with Home Instead Senior Care’s professional caregiver for some of their best advice … after all, we can all use some fresh ideas from time to time!
1. Take a break without feeling guilty: “The one thing I would advise a family caregiver is to allow themselves respite time, at least a couple times each month, without feeling guilty,” says Maggie. “A refreshed caregiver is a much better provider of care when they themselves have taken a much-needed break.”
2. Helping your loved one look good can help them feel good, too: “Washing their hair, getting a trim or a haircut can vastly improve how they feel and see themselves,” says Theresa. Update their clothes as their size changes or they lose weight, and consider a few brightly coloured, patterned painting smocks that can be put on and washed every day to extend the life of their clothes.
3. Give them the freedom to forget: “Don’t assume your family member remembers even the simple parts of life they’ve always known,” Lori says. “Don’t assume they like what they’ve always liked: music, television, current events, travel, past favourite foods… Don’t assume they remember the person in church greeting them, or the neighbour next door, or even you. Allow them the space to remember and forget at their own pace.”
4. Call or visit regularly: “In my years as a caregiver, I’ve found that most seniors who don’t get out much usually experience loneliness. Their phone seldom rings and the television is often left on all day for company. They want to hear the sound of other voices but that doesn’t take the place of visiting with other people or spending time out in public,” says Renee, suggesting setting a specific day and time each week to call, to give your loved one something to look forward to. A simple letter or greeting card to let them know they are missed and loved can make their day and remind them that someone cares.
5. Allow them to change and accept when they do: “Whether it’s a physical incapability or behavioural, realize that it’s okay that your loved one is not the person you remember. Step back and realize the only way they can get peace is to let them be,” reflects Jeannie.
6. Never make them feel incapable, or say “no” outright: “Be considerate about things that may be embarrassing to them, such as helping them out of a wheelchair,” Jeannie adds. “Be as creative as you can be. If they’re confused about what is going on, ease the confusion by asking questions about their past and suggesting activities like going for a drive and pointing out all their favourite locations. Do what you can to make it feel like they weren’t denied anything.”
7. Be patient and respectful: “Regardless of the reasons they need care, it’s important to provide it in ways that are respectful of their dignity and independence. You need to be patient,” advises Mariana.
8. Accept help: “You need to take care of yourself to take care of someone else. If people offer to help, accept the help,” she adds.
Home Instead Senior Care provides a wide variety of home care services throughout Greater Victoria. For more information, call 250-382-6565, visit them at homeinstead.com/victoriabc or follow them on Facebook.