Evaluating the Caregiving State of Affairs


Evaluating the Caregiving State of Affairs

(Editor's Note: Today’s guest post comes from SeniorsforLiving.com’s Michelle Seitzer. Before committing to life as a full-time freelance writer, Michelle spent 10 years in the senior living and advocacy world, serving in various roles at assisted living communities throughout Pennsylvania and Maryland, and leading the charge for Alzheimer’s as a public policy coordinator for the Pennsylvania chapters of the Alzheimer’s Association. She began blogging for SeniorsforLiving.com in November 2008 and currently resides in York, Penn., with her teacher husband and two Boston Terriers. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.)

Transitions and turning points are natural parts of the caregiving landscape. Make decisions, change decisions. Devise plans, undo plans. Settle into a rhythm and the beat changes.

One of the toughest transitions? Knowing when your caree needs more services.

Family caregivers know that things will change. They understand that their caree’s health will decline. They recognize that certain treatments may help but that, at some point, treatment alone will not suffice.

But knowing and doing are two very different things. It’s one thing to recognize when your caree moves into a new phase of the disease process. It’s another to stop and say, “She needs more help.” And then it’s another thing entirely to call a professional who can provide that help.

First, there’s the guilt thing. Why can’t I provide what she needs? What if the person I hire doesn’t do things right? What if he thinks I’ve given up on him by getting help?

If your caree needs more help, it doesn’t mean you have failed. It means that the person under your care has new needs to be met, needs that may require more specialized services or more hours of care than you can provide. You can’t add more hours to the day, so you may have to add more people to the caregiving equation…and it’s okay to do so.

Then, there’s the next step thing. What help do we need?

You'll find your answers by taking time to assess the current situation. You may want to ask other family members and friends for their input. What do they notice? What services do they think would help? Even though it may be tough to hear their suggestions, input from outside your situation may provide you with helpful perspectives.

If possible, talk with your caree about your concerns. He or she will likely notice if you’re under pressure, which may in turn influence the quality of care you provide. An honest and open conversation may make all the difference.

If your caree visits the doctor regularly, then the doctor can probably tell you whether your caree’s physical condition requires more specialized services.

How you feel during your day may be the strongest indicator that caregiving is getting the best of you. You will know when you and your caree needs more services if you feel…

  • …you don't have enough hours in the day for what needs to be done (both as a family caregiver and as a person with other responsibilities and needs of your own),

  • …stressed out (i.e., you can’t sleep, you’re depressed, you lose your patience easily, you’re eating too much, etc.),

  • …overwhelmed (Which meds does she get on what day? When is his next therapy appointment? Where is the cancer specialist’s office located?), or

  • ...exhausted, especially after a good night’s rest or a period of respite.

If you identify with even just one of the above characteristics, then it's time to evaluate the caregiving state of affairs. You can gain a better understanding of your situation by asking yourself these questions:

  • 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?

Your answers to these questions will help pinpoint when and with which tasks you need more help. Then, begin brainstorming options. Solutions may be scheduling more respite or hiring a cleaning service or delegating more responsibility to your children/spouse. Look for professionals, like home care agencies, to manage the more complex and intense care needs.

Above all, remember that being at your best means you have to take care of yourself. If you’re not factoring your needs into the equation, things will eventually fall apart.

Living in the moment with a spirit of flexibility is crucial to successful caregiving. Easier said than done, right? Of course – but there is great freedom in flexibility. Letting go means accepting what is to come without putting the entire burden on your own shoulders, a weight that even the strongest person cannot manage forever.

How did you know when you and your caree needed more help? What additional help did you get? Please share your thoughts in our comments section, below.

Visit SeniorsforLiving.com to find out about home care options that may provide some assistance to you.


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