Caregiving is one of the most rewarding industries you could get into, yet it is also difficult at times. If you feel overwhelmed or frustrated sometimes, you are not alone. However, you can make it easier for yourself by seeking out advice from others in the industry. If you learn to manage stress and know where to go to for advice, it makes such a big difference in your caregiving career.
We reached out to several expert caregivers for you, to see what advice they think every caregiver should have.
ASK for HELP
“We caregivers are a quirky bunch. Work is play for us. We dive in, dig deep and don’t come up for air until… well… when we’re gasping and need a lifeline. This is not a good strategy and we know it, but we’re all guilty of it. When caring for someone who depends on us to help them make it through the day, we do our best in earnest. Whether it’s simple companionship or much more such as help with feeding and toileting, we need to acknowledge our limits, set down our superhuman capes and get some help.”
– Brenda Avadian
MA from TheCaregiversVoice.com
Build a Network
“Stress and caregiving, especially for an older adult, seem to go hand in hand especially for sandwich generation carers.
There is just too much to do and too little time to accomplish everything! Caregiver burnout caused by stress for those who keep trying to do it all is a growing problem and one that can be prevented. Building a network on which you can rely is key to reducing your caregiving stress.
A network could include:
- Family members, such as children or siblings
- Someone from your healthcare team
- Home helpers, paid caregivers, community agencies that can support your needs, transportation assistance, and even local delivery people to bring you what you need.
- Emotional supporters such as close friend or a faith provider who will give you a shoulder to lean on
- Someone who can sit with your loved one so that you can get respite and go to the doctor yourself, get your hair done or just have lunch with a friend.
- People who can provide socialization and companionship to your loved one when you aren’t there
- Seek out support groups that can give you not only emotional support and friendship but knowledge about what you face as a caregiver
Your network is built with people you can trust to work in your stead, accomplish tasks and support you on your journey.
Asking for their help when needed is not a failure but a way to reduce your stress so you can keep caring.”
Fill Your Own Tank
“As caregiver, we often feel like the loved ones we care for are more vulnerable than we are, so we put our own needs last. But we need to realize that caregivers are very vulnerable too! We have high stress levels, are more likely to have depression and to rate our health as poor. If we don't care for ourselves, we may become unable to care for our loved ones.
I liken it to my car – I don't expect it to run on empty and I can't expect my car to! As caregivers, we need to keep filling our own tanks too! It's not selfish, it's just practical. Find ways to move that needle on your own “fuel” gauge. What gives you energy? What nurtures your soul? What relaxes you? What keeps you healthy? What motivates you to keep on going?
We all need to have:
1) Quick tank fillers – what can you do for a quick boost in 5 or 10 minutes? Drink a cup of coffee, make quick phone call, practice meditation or mindfulness, connect on social media etc.
2) Premium fill-ups: take a walk, get a few hours away, take a class, go to a movie.
3) full time-ups: take a vacation!
4) Routine maintenance: prioritize adequate and quality sleep, eat healthy foods, get exercise, go for routine and preventive medical appointments.
A balance of all these will help keep your tank on the full side AND help you be a better caregiver.”
Caregiving Expert, Author, Speaker, Consultant
Meet the Patient Where They Are At
What I discovered as a caregiver is in order to be successful in the role you must meet the person where they’re at. In caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or Dementia this may not be the easiest thing to do, because you want the person afflicted with the illness to be who you once knew them to be, but now you’re required to re-learn communication or at least you should. Regardless of behavioral changes, your patient or loved one is still in need of patience and understanding. You have to remember to speak to them and not at them, use simpler language, and keep choices to a minimal few.
Another successful tip is to get them engaged in little tasks, tasks that can help you while giving them a sense of accomplishment. Be organized, try to forecast your needs, appointments and things to do and remember to try to have fun in the journey. Caregiving is a great test, but if you allow yourself you can find joy and reward in this role.
-Pamela Rivers, confessionsofamastercaregiver.com
Multimedia Journalist, Blogger and one of Maria Shriver's Agents of Change
Go Into Her World
“When I moved back to Texas to help care for my parents, I was a rookie caregiver. I’d never had kids and had lived in New York and LA for thirty years. I had not the slightest idea how to deal with a mother suffering from Alzheimer’s. Spending six days each year at Christmas and a quick summer visit don’t begin to prepare you for that emotionally wrenching disease.
Six weeks after arriving in Austin, I was still reeling from my mother’s refusal to wear just five of the sixty dresses in her closet. She thought the others were stolen and would not be dissuaded from this belief. She was no longer living in the land of logic. Then she asked if we could go see her sister in Smithville, a small town about an hour’s drive away. There was only one problem: her sister had been dead for 8 years and I was too new at caregiving to avoid sharing this painful truth.
I said, “Mama, we can’t go see Estelle. She’s in heaven.” This was a terrible shock to Mother who began weeping, shaking, and reliving that death for the next twenty minutes. I knew I’d done something wrong, but all I did was tell the truth. The next day I got an emergency appointment with an Alzheimer’s expert and explained the situation. She gave me the best single piece of advice I ever received about caregiving. She said, “Jim, stop trying to bring your mother into your world. She can’t go there anymore. Instead, you have to go into her world.” I let that wisdom sink in and understood it immediately. For the next 14 years, as her cognitive abilities and speech slowly left her, I was right there – but always in her world.”
Speech Coach, Author, Keynote Speaker
In the caregiving industry, it is a wise idea to consult with others to help encourage you and guide you through new experiences. If these tips helped you, please SHARE with your friends!