10 Signs That You May Be an Expectant Caregiver


10 Signs That You May Be an Expectant Caregiver

dawn-977862_640(Leslie Cottrell Simonds, a Certified Caregiving Consultant™, who cared for her dad and cares for her mom, shares her thoughts on preparing for a caregiving situation. For help preparing, schedule a complementary consulting session with Leslie via the form at the bottom of the post.)

Are you an expectant caregiver?

Are you wondering what that term even means?

An Expectant Caregiver* is a family member or friend of an individual experiencing progressive need of guidance, physical care or is suffering increased medical emergencies.

Leslie Leslie

Let’s start with a few definitions:
A family caregiver is someone who delivers ongoing support to someone else with a significant injury or illness. We are primarily addressing the challenges of the caregiver who is not compensated for caregiving efforts. Many times family caregivers continue to hold down a job, raise their family, and continue with the responsibilities of a full life outside of their caregiving responsibilities. It can be the care of a parent, spouse, partner, child, close friend or sibling. A caree is the person for whom you care or potentially may care for.

Sometimes circumstances cause us to leap into the role of caregiver due to an unexpected injury or emergency medical situation. But, other times we may ease into this role. It sort of sneaks up on you and  suddenly you realize that you have crossed over an invisible line that officially put you into the position of becoming a caregiver.

Knowledge is power and the time to plan is before there is a crisis.

Ten ways to know if you are an expectant caregiver:

1) A family member is making increased trips to the doctor, hospital, or emergency room for the same condition or complaint.  This can indicate a significant shift in the overall health of a family member. A diagnosis may be in the near future that alters the family member's ability to care for himself or herself.

2) You see an increasing number of forgetful spells or an intensity of loss of memory in your family member. We all forget where our keys are, we all forget to pay a bill now and then. Stress increases memory loss for everyone, no matter age, physical or mental condition. However, it is time to pay closer attention when you can see an increase in a family member's forgetfulness, or you come into their house to find the kitchen stove on with no one cooking or paying attention, or you find evidence that everyday tasks are not being completed. Keep in mind that partners may cover for one another. Direct questions may not yield any direct results. You may have to become a super sleuth.

3) The condition of the potential caree’s personal space. If this person has always been neat and clean and suddenly the home or room is unkempt and disorganized, it is probably because of an underlying issue. Lawns may start to get longer, gardens not weeded, pruning not done. These tasks can simply become too difficult to manage.

4) Look in the refrigerator. If you open up the fridge and find a living organism of green fuzzies and outdated food stuff, the time is overdue for at the very least, mild intervention.

5) A marked change in a family member's interests. Someone who has played bridge twice a week for 15 years or never misses Sunday morning church service but suddenly seems uninterested has something deeper going on. It may be depression or it may be a medical condition or lack of energy. Whatever the cause, a sudden change of pattern or interest is a critical indicator to look for.

6) A noticeable change in weight, either up or down. We all know that a sudden loss of weight can indicate any number of medical problems, but weight gain can be something to watch out for as well. Someone may be depressed and eating “comfort” or junk food to excess. Or, they may not have the energy to cook properly so they begin to rely on overly processed foods because they require little effort.

7) Expression of concern by neighbor(s). Sometimes when there is a change in behavior, the neighbors may be the first ones to notice. They may see that your family member can no longer do what they’ve done in the past, or have taken to wandering the neighborhood, or are having increased difficulty navigating vehicles in and out of the garage.  If a neighbor makes the effort to communicate concern, it is definitely time to listen.

8) An increase to the number of calls to you at work without specific cause. Early onset Alzheimer’s can be very frustrating to the person experiencing the symptoms. The symptoms  can also be confusing. Are you getting calls from your Dad every day at work, or multiple calls a day for no reason? Is a parent or spouse repeatedly calling because they are bored and don’t know what to do with themselves? Are they exaggerating medical issues to get your attention?

9) Does a family member need increasing intervention with their medications? It can begin with organizing meds for the week. Some Saturday when you arrive to organize medication you realize your family member hasn't taken any. Or perhaps your family member took more meds than necessary because he or she wasn't paying attention to the days on the med box. Moving on to an alarmed pill disbursement box may help but these are clear indicators the there is a decline in mental function.

10) This may be the most important of all: Your intuition. If your inner voice is telling you that a family member's health situation is on the decline, listen to that voice. We may begin to get intuitive messages long before you definitively see any of the other indicators.
Use this time to begin to prepare. Begin now and develop the foundation of your caregiving plan. Arrange a conversation with other family members to understand who will help and how. Don’t leave these major decisions until there is a crisis.

* The term, “Expectant Caregiver,” comes from Denise Brown, The Caregiving Years, Six Stages to a Meaningful Journey.

Would you like to create a plan to manage what's next? Schedule a complementary 30-minute session with Leslie to learn how she can help. Leslie offers a number of support programs for all stages of the caregiving journey.
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