I am helping a family member or friend.
Who are you?
Your involvement with your caree is almost daily–if not constant. Your caree may live with you–or your involvement means that your day is structured to be available to your caree. You begin to wonder, how much longer can you live this way? Your mood is sometimes upbeat–you’re proud you’ve been able to provide such wonderful care and make decisions that support your caree’s best wishes–and sometimes melancholy–why you? You’ve been mourning the loss of your caree’s abilities and functions and often long for the days before caregiving. And, you’re tired.
Your Keyword: Receive
–Receive help–from anyone who offers;
–Receive breaks from caregiving;
To find the support and strength to continue.
To develop a routine, create a familiar schedule for both yourself and your caree. A routine will help you deal with the overwhelming stresses and responsibilities that wear you out. A routine will provide comfort for you and your caree–this stage may be the most difficult for both of you. The changes you prepared for in Stage I and II are now a reality–you have become something of a lifeline to a family member or friend.
In addition to your caree’s routine of care, create a routine for yourself. In your routine include: Time for the unexpected; a ritual which begins and ends your day; and a “healthness” activity that nurtures your spiritual, emotional, physical, mental needs.
As an “entrenched caregiver,” what can you do?
1. Determine your limits in your day and in your role.
How long can your caree remain at home? What’s your comfort level in providing care in your home? For instance, some family caregivers feel uncomfortable providing care when their caree becomes incontinent. Others determine they can provide care at home as long as insurance or Medicare benefits offset some of the home care expenses. Others feel they can provide care as long as their other family members, like spouses and adult children, will put up with it.
Just as important as understanding your limits in your role is recognizing your limits during your day. Consider:
–Which tasks and responsibilities feel like a struggle?
–What times during the day do you feel the greatest amount of stress?
–When do you find yourself running late, losing your temper, scrambling for a solution?
–What do you find yourself dreading or hating?
–When do you find yourself in a tug-of-war with your caree?
–What times of the day are tough for your caree?
–When during the day does your worry about your caree intensify?
When you understand your limits, you can look for help to manage what’s beyond your limits. Understanding your limits will ensure you, your caree and your family will stay in a safe place.
Everyone has limits. What are yours?
2. What are your caree’s limits?
Understanding your caree’s limits will help schedule your day and organize your help. Limits will change regularly, so be aware of change in tolerance and fatigue. Not sure how much help to schedule? Add more than you think. You can never have too much.
3. Continue regular breaks.
Consider annual weekly breaks–investigate short-term respite stays in your community’s nursing homes. Or, ask relatives to take over the caregiving role for a week or two every year or every two years. Continue to take daily, weekly and monthly breaks. Keep up with your own interests and hobbies as best you can. Take time to enjoy the paradise you built in Stage II.
4. Use your Solutions Fund.
Make deposits and take withdrawals, using the money for boredom, breaks and back-up plans.
5. Keep up with a support system–a caregiver’s support group or empathetic and understand family members or friends.
6. Continue to learn about your caree’s illness or condition.
What’s next for your caree? Are you up to the next steps in his or her illness?
7. Increase help as your caree declines.
Become comfortable with adding more help as more help is needed. You may think, “I’m okay keeping the level of help as it is.” Unfortunately, keeping the level where your caree was rather than where he or she is will hurt both of you. Note the struggles in the day, then work to add help for you and your caree to manage the struggles.
8. Manage the budget as much as you manage the care.
As care needs increase, so does the budget. When you caree has funds to pay for about 18 months in a nursing home, then take note of the situation. This is the time to consider nursing home placement, when your caree’s funds will afford the best choices. Hold a family meeting, tour local facilities, consult with professionals, such as a geriatric care manager. You may decide this isn’t the time to decide. That’s okay. It’s important to be aware that sometimes the budget determines the decision on where a caree continues to receive care.
9. Continue writing in both journals—yours and the other about your caree.
10. Forgive yourself for your bad moments and bad days.
They will happen. After they do, give yourself a clean slate to start over.
11. Set boundaries which protect: Your Time; Your Values; Your Well-being, Your Priorities; Your Self.
Examples of communicating boundaries include:
–“I’m taking a two-hour break after lunch. I have everything that you’ll need set up in the living room. Thank you so much for helping me enjoy this time. I’m so grateful for your support.”
–“I’m uncomfortable with the tone of our discussion. Let’s table our talk until tomorrow.”
–“I’m booked, so can’t handle that request. Thank you for thinking of me.”
12. Give you and your caree room for your difficult moments and bad days.
When you’re having a tough time, simply say: “I’m having a bad day. I’m taking a few minutes for myself.” When it’s your caree’s turn, say, “I’m sorry you’re having a bad day. I’m going to step away for a few moments.”
13. An apple a day…
What’s your apple in this stage? You may feel tempted to sacrifice your apple in this stage. Your apple can’t be sacrificed. Your apple is what makes you feel normal, like yourself. Keep it.
Note: I have provided The Caregiving Years to be used strictly as a guide. All situations vary. I encourage you to always consult your health care professionals to discuss your individual situation and the best course of action for you and your caree.